Tennis: Bopanna-Sharan win, India lead 4-0

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan overcame spirited resistance from Frederik Nielsen and Mikael Torpegaard to give the hosts a winning lead as India overpowered Denmark 4-0

Tennis: Bopanna-Sharan win, India lead 4-0
Tennis: Bopanna-Sharan win, India lead 4-0

NEW DELHI: Ace duo of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan overcame spirited resistance from  Frederik Nielsen and Mikael Torpegaard 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to give the hosts winning lead as India overpowered Denmark 4-0 in the Davis Cup World Group 1 Playoff at the Delhi Gymkhana Club here on Saturday.

The visiting pair surprised the host by winning the first set but the settled India duo regained their rhythm soon and won the next two hard-fought sets to wrap up the tie and the match in 118 minutes.

Later in an inconsequential reverse single, Ramkumar Ramanathan beat Johannes Ingildsen. 5-7, 7-5, 10-7.  The fifth match was not played.

The win ensured that India will stay in World Group I for the 2022 season while Denmark will now again go back to World Group II.

Having secured two easy wins in the singles on Friday, the formidable Indian doubles pair was expected to have an easy outing against the Visitors but the resolute defiance by Frederik Nielsen and Mikael Torpegaard surprised players and the partisan crowd.

The  Danes were simply not overawed either by the reputation or the world ranking of 41-year old Bopanna (ranked 32) or 35-year old Divij whose doubles ranking is 142.

The way Indians opened it looked they will wrap up the match in no time. But that was not to be.

Bopanna started with three aces in the first game as the Indians served with ease collecting points; However, the lower-ranked Denmark pair displayed great tenacity and held their serves, hitting powerful backhand shots from the baseline.

The Indians, who had won Adelaide doubles titles early this year, found it tough to break their rivals. World No. 98 in doubles, Nielsen who was the mainstay of  Demark’s resolute display showed his class on the net,  matching  Bopanna's attacking play.

He made the Indians fight for every point in the first set. Bopanna and Nielsen were involved intense battle on the net, as the score was levelled  6-6. India lost the set in the tie-breaker 7-6 (7-3).

In the second set, Bopanna, with his agility, athleticism and reflexes on the net and Divij broke Torpegaard and Nielsen's service to take a 5-2 lead.  The visitors saved their next serves  but  the Indians id held on to the advantage  and took the set 6-4 to make it 1-1

In the decider with a score of 2-2, India had the advantage to break Frederik's serve, but Divij's backhand cross-shot went wide.

In the next game, Bopanna, who was at his best with a volley and drop shots on the net, made it 3-3 with an ace. The veteran Indian held his serve but Frederik made it 6-5 in the next game.

Serving to stay in the match in the 12th game, Divij faced three match points but the Indians held nerves to save all, two of them on second serves, to force a tie-breaker, in which they raced to a 4-1 lead and sealed the win when Torpegaard could not return  Bopanna's serve.

In the dead rubber fourth match, Ramkumar had to fight it out to beat Johannes Ingildsen. The Dane took the first set 7-5.

The Indian kept his cool and won the second set  (7-5) and then clinched the tiebreak to earn a 5-7, 7-5, 10-7 victory to make it 4-0.

This is India's first win since they beat Pakistan 4-0 in November 2019 when Rohit Rajpal took over as non-playing captain. After that India lost to Finland (1-3) and Croatia (1-3) in away ties.

Happy with the team’s dominating show non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal said that Bopanna and Sharan’s strategy to mix up their serves to flummox the Danes.

“We were mixing our serves and I was telling Rohan, again and again, to mix which worked in our favour. I am pretty happy with the team. Ramkumar is always there and it’s good to have Yuki back in our squad. Against Finland, the game was close but against Croatia, it was closer. The team’s think tank comprising Zeeshan Ali, Rohan and I had prepared well for this tie and I am happy that it all went well for us.”

Rohan Bopanna admitted that Friday’s twin victories by Ramkumar and Yuki had put a lot of pressure on the visitors. “The biggest thing was that we had a 2-0 lead and pressure was on the opposition side. We started off well and served accordingly. Torpegaard gave back a few good returns. But, in doubles, even small chances sometimes can create big chances. A few good returns and saving match points were our main strength. Especially like to thank the crowd which was a big support to us.”

Coach Zeeshan Ali opined. “Every player is different…Rohan is good at serving; Divij doesn’t have that strong serve but they always combine well. The idea was to get an advantage from those big serves. The two played a solid tie-breaker in the third set. The shot of the match was Rohan’s backhand volley.”

Denmark’s captain Nielsen rued the missed chances and said the low bounce of the DGC made the returns difficult. “The serve goes off quickly and gets very low which makes it hard to return. Indians made good use of the grass surface and when the court is so fast, it’s difficult to hit with that speed. Unfortunately, the game didn’t go as we would have thought.”

Torpegaard added: “My approach to the game is simple ‘see the ball, hit the ball’. Sometimes I get lucky with it. Happy with the way I played the doubles, it felt really good to play the Davis cup with some great players. I am happy even being on the losing side.”