India trounces South Korea

Doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna, who had earlier partnered Leander Paes to win the doubles tie in the second day, defeated Hong Chung 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the dead fourth rubber. Ramkumar Ramanathan, however, lost the fifth rubber to Yung-Kyu Lim 3-6, 7-5, 6-7 (2).

Rohan Bopanna tamed South Korea's Hong Chung in the fourth rubber.   -  PTI

The cameo -- when the Indian team, with all its support staff, danced to the tune of vibrant music, much to the delight of its adoring fans -- beautifully captured the essence of the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-1 tie against Korea.

There was harmony in the Indian camp and the spirit was high, despite the struggle and the suspense of swinging fortunes on the grass court.

India had sealed the tie 3-0 on Saturday, but Korea won the last rubber on the third day to make it 4-1 at the Chandigarh Club on Sunday.

Watched by an appreciative crowd that patiently waited through a rain interruption of about two hours between the two reverse singles matches, both the teams put up a honest and entertaining fare.

Rohan Bopanna, forced to play the singles rubber in place of Saketh Myneni who had not recovered from his fitness issues after the heroics of the opening day, found his rhythm to delight the gathering with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over the stocky, short left-hander Chung Hong.

Taking his time to get used to the singles court and the nature of the grass, Bopanna recovered from being down a set and 1-4 in the second, to overwhelm the Korean. Once he found his serving rhythm and fired 25 aces in the match, Bopanna closed the match in double quick time in an hour and 23 minutes.

Much in contrast, Ramkumar Ramanathan, who had won the crucial opening rubber against Seong-Chan Hong, was in sight of victory at 5-2 in the decider, but could not serve out the match against Yong-Kyu Lim, who had collapsed in a heap owing to cramps on the first day.

In the event, Yong-Kyu Lim, who had won the Asian Games doubles gold with Chung Hyeon in Incheon at the expense of Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh, seized the opportunity to win the only rubber for Korea with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(2) score in just over two hours.

The 4-1 triumph took India to the World Group play-off to be played in September, against one of the seeded teams from among, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Spain, Kazakhstan, Japan and Germany.

It was the third year in a row that India was making it to the threshold of the World Group. It had lost tough matches against Serbia and the Czech Republic over the last two years at the play-off stage.

‘’I gave it my best, but I fell short. I am really happy that the team won the tie’’, said Ramkumar before rushing to catch a flight.

Bopanna said that he had surprised himself by playing so well in singles, while admitting that he was hitting the alley instinctively in the first half of the match.

‘’I don’t think he was doing anything to be up a set and a break. I was giving it to him. Once I found my service rhythm, the momentum changed. I was able to take him away from his comfort zone. I don’t think I have ever sliced my backhand return. But, I was doing it today,’’ said the 36-year-old Bopanna, who had last played singles in Davis Cup in 2012, against Uzbekistan

‘’I got a call from Saketh at 8 a.m. He had not recovered and I was the only option’’, revealed Bopanna, about the sudden call for singles duty.

The results:

India bt Korea 4-1 (Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Seong-Chan Hong 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-5 (retired); Saketh Myneni bt Yong-Kyu Lim 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 5-2 (retired)); Rohan Bopanna & Leander Paes bt Seong-Chan Hong & Chung Hong 6-3, 6-4, 6-4; Rohan Bopanna bt Chung Hong 3-6, 6-4, 6-4; Ramkumar Ramanathan lost to Yong-Kyu Lim 3-6, 7-5, 6-7(2)).