Davis Cup: India struggles after 'shocking' first day against China

The Indian Davis Cup team was staring at defeat at the zonal level for the first time in five years.

Ramkumar Ramanathan lost the first singles 6-7(4), 4-6 to China’s new tennis sensation Yibing Wu.   -  N. Ragu

The better ranked Indian players failed to win a set as China surged to a 2-0 lead on the opening day of the Asia Oceania Davis Cup tennis tie on Friday.

The conditions were tough, as it was hard to rally on a slow and low bouncing court in cold weather against the marauding Chinese, but what irked the Indian fans who got to watch the second match ‘live’ on television was the fact that both Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal failed to put up a fight. The Indian challenge fizzled out with every set, after a robust start by Ramkumar.

In fact, both the Indian players started strong, breaking the opponent’s serve, but it was the Chinese who regained a quick grip over the proceedings and literally chased the visitors out of the court.

The 23-year-old Ramkumar −  ranked 132 in the world −  who had given a good account of himself in the last World Group play-off tie against Canada, was beaten 7-6(4), 6-4 by the 18-year-old prodigy Yibing Wu, who was playing only his fourth match of the season owing to injury.

The US Open junior singles and doubles champion last year, Wu was winning only his second match, after the win against New Zealand in February.

That was a strong start for the host and it consolidated the position with the experienced Ze Zhang outplaying the 20-year-old Sumit Nagal 6-4, 6-1.

Owing to their home advantage, the athletic and energetic Chinese had adapted to the conditions better than the Indian players, who did not have the temperament to fight it out, even though the International Tennis Federation (ITF) had reduced the contest to a
best-of-three-sets rubber, from the previous pattern of five sets.

"Conditions were the same for everyone. So, I don’t think we should look at that as an excuse. Regardless of that, it was a uncharacteristically shameful display in both matches. There was no fight, hunger or will to win," said skipper Mahesh Bhupathi, who was seated stunned on courtside, unable to digest what was dished out.

The onus will be on Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna to revive the contest in the doubles, the first of three rubbers on the second day, and give the young players a chance to redeem their reputation, if not take the contest to a fairytale finish.

"Only way we can bounce back is one match at a time tomorrow and hope it turns slowly," said Mahesh, who was left with the dual duty of swallowing pride and disappointment.

In the absence of the country’s No.1 Yuki Bhambri, the Indian team was like a snake without its venom. China, too good at home, would be trying to make it to the World Group play-off for the first time since 1990.

The results: China leads India 2-0 (Yebing Wu bt Ramkumar Ramanathan
7-6(4), 6-4; Ze Zhang bt Sumit Nagal 6-4, 6-1).