Davis Cup: Ramkumar clinches the tie for India

Ramkumar Ramanathan defeated New Zealand's Finn Tearney in straight sets 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 in the first reverse singles to clinch the Davis Cup tie for India.

Ramkumar Ramanathan had an easy win against Finn Tearney.   -  R. Ragu

Ramkumar Ramanathan did not have to push himself hard to tame Finn Tearney to clinch the Davis Cup tie for India. The 22-year-old Ramkumar did not drop his serve once again in the tie as he overwhelmed the Kiwi 7-5, 6-1, 6-0, reeling off the last 11 games.

Yuki Bhambri who played a key role in giving a vibrant start for the host on the first day did drop a set to the deserving Jose Statham, but played strong overall with his all-round game that kept the spectators entertained for long.

Yuki eventually prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. The Kiwi could have won in straight sets, but for Yuki winning the first set from being down 2-5.

There was no such revival in the second set as Statham was sharp in serving out. In the decider, Yuki bounced back from a break in the first game with a quick break back and broke decisively in the tenth game.

After the superb performance of Artem Sitak and Michael Venus, who won the pivotal doubles against Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan, it was an anticlimax for the New Zealanders, but they kept reminding that they were ranked beyond 400 in the world, with their flowing errors.

The Indian team started the celebrations immediately after Ramkumar gave the team an unassailable 3-1 lead, by tossing the outgoing captain Anand Amritraj three times in the air. The routine was slowly followed on coach Zeeshan Ali and continued for Yuki and Leander as well.

At the end, the team came up with a cameo dance, like the way it had done after the tie against Korea in Chandigarh last year. If anything the cameraderie in the team was bewitching.

In the next round, India will play at home from April 7 to 9 against Uzbekistan, which beat Korea, for a berth in the World Group play-off.

Ramkumar served well and saved five breakpoints in the match to ensure a clean record, with his serve like he had saved three breakpoints at 0-40 in one game against Statham on the first day, Ramkumar did so against Tearney as well with his strong serves.

He fired 12 aces, but had nine doublefaults as well. He converted six of 15 breakpoints to cruise home. Yet, there was a distinct lack of sting in his strokes, which stood in such contrast to the explosive serves. Maybe that completely bamboozled the opponent, who himself struggled with 16 doublefaults that complicated matters.

On the hard courts, on which Yuki came fresh with power packed strokes, Ramkumar played the spin far too much as if he was playing onclay. Against an opponent like Tearney, he could try anything and get away. Overall, it was a job well done. Over to Mahesh Bhupathi to take the team forward from the next tie, as the captain.

In a special step, the organisers who had done a wonderful job of hosting the tie, after a gap of 43 years in Pune, in such a vibrant atmosphere, asked the captain and all the Indian players, including Saketh Myneni, to address the crowd which stayed back after the entertaining day in pleasant breeze and bright lights to savour the moment.

It was a fitting climax that would stay in memory of everyone who witnessed the tie.



The results:

India bt New Zealand 4-1 (Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Finn Tearney 7-5, 6-1, 6-0; Yuki Bhambri bt Jose Statham 7-5, 3-6, 6-4).

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