IMAGE: India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan is congratulated by Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi after their Davis Cup tie on Saturday. Photograph: AITA/X
India blunted Pakistan’s challenge on the opening day to take a 2-0 lead in the Davis Cup World Group I play-off tie with Ramkumar Ramanathan and N Sriram Balaji rising to the occasion in the high-pressure contest, in Islamabad on Saturday.
A fired-up Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi gave his all in a tight opening singles but the intensity of the match and tough conditions took a toll on him as he suffered a hamstring injury in the third set, which prevented a close finish to a hard-fought contest.
Ramkumar served extremely well in the match and also returned better in the second set to prevail 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-0 while 43-year-old Aisam served 10 double faults in the match, going for broke.
Ramkumar’s strong serving and percentage tennis was key to the outcome of the match. He served nine games at love, keeping the points short and crisp.
Down by a set, Ramkumar wriggled out of a tough situation when serving at 3-4, he was down 15-40 and never looked back in the match in which he fired 20 aces.
Balaji, a doubles specialist, was challenged by Aqeel Khan, but the Indian defeated the veteran Pakistani 7-5, 6-3 in the rain-hit second singles.
Balaji had a grip over the match. He broke Aqeel once in both the sets. His movement, strong serve, use of drop shots all came together for a comfortable win in the end.
India are one win away from advancing to the World Group I.
IMAGE: Sriram Balaji, a doubles specialist, was challenged by Aqeel Khan, but the Indian defeated the veteran Pakistani 7-5, 6-3 in the rain-hit second singles. Photograph: AITA/X
Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni will now look to seal the tie on Sunday when they take on Muzammil Murtaza and Barkat Ullah in the third match.
The freezing cold made the conditions challenging for the players.
Pakistan have always punched above their weight in home conditions on grass courts but India was well-equipped to respond to the challenge.
“This will go down as a special win for me given we are in Pakistan. It is not easy to win away,” Ramkumar said after the win.
“It (grass courts) suits my game style the way I play. It is one of my favourite surfaces. I adapted really well. Aisam slowed down the game while serving. It was not easy but I was all pumped up,” he said.
Aisam said he gave his 100 percent in the match. “It was really cold, making the balls heavy. I did not make many mistakes when I had breakpoints in the second set. He served well, one on ‘T’ and had two volleys. He gets credit for that.”
“In tie-breaker also, he came up with goods, but I did not make many errors. Then I started feeling pain in my groin and it spread to my thigh. That slowed me down and also my focus shifted to pain. Ramkumar started to serve better. But I feel proud, I played hard,” he said.