Indian tennis hit the depths, and it was a pitiable sight. Pushed to the deep end without any warning, with 11 of the top players opting out of National duty, the journey-men sank like stones thrown into a well.
The Koreans played like a champion outfit, much to their own surprise, racing into a 2-0 lead in double quick time on the first day of the Asia-Oceania group ‘I’ Davis Cup tie at the R.K. Khanna Stadium here on Friday.
Former National champion V.M. Ranjeet broke his opponent once and held serve on only one occasion, as he slithered to a 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 defeat against the un-ranked Cho Min Hyeok in the opening rubber, in an hour and 25 minutes.
Thereafter, 22-year-old Vijayant Malik gave a fair hint of his potential and strong game, but was affected by a heavy bout of cramps towards the end of the second set. He eventually retired when trailing 0-3 in the third.
To have cramped in just about two hours of tennis on a pleasant afternoon, despite a week-long preparation, facing an opponent ranked 321 in the world, should be a cause for concern to the Indian team.
The situation was ironical, as the services of Dr. Vece Paes, who had been exceptional in taking care of the Davis Cup squads for more than two decades, was not availed this time, as the All India Tennis Association (AITA) fulfilled part of the agenda of the revolting players.
The Koreans were happy with the 2-0 lead, without having to break into a sweat, but cautious as captain Yoon Yong-Il stated, “this is not the end”.
Yong-Il was polite in saying that Malik, ranked an unflattering 537, had a game suited for faster courts.
To his credit, the lanky player — a product of the rural tennis scheme of the Chandigarh Association — who has been training with coach Aditya Sachdeva in the Capital for about two years, served and stroked with a touch of assurance to strike a flicker of hope.
Yet, it had to be conceded that Malik lacked the strokes to finish off the exhausting rallies, on a consistent basis against an opponent who was rarely giving away an inch.
The 19-year-old Jeong Suk-Young had a solid game, with a sparkling double-fisted backhand. He converted the only breakpoint in the fifth game to take the opening set in about 40 minutes.
Malik saved a breakpoint in the first game of the second set, but missed four opportunities to break his opponent in the fourth game.
At 5-5, the Korean saved a game point with a backhand down the line, as Malik had trouble standing on his feet. The Indian put away two successive shots long and conceded the decisive break. The Korean served out the set after Malik had taken a five-minute medical timeout.
Malik was a sitting duck thereafter, struggling with his serve and movement. He dropped serve in the first game, and at 15-15 in the third, collapsed on the baseline. Umpire Lalit Mohan Singh rushed to the spot and subsequently announced that Malik had conceded all the remaining points in the game, understandably towards reaching another medical timeout.
With the situation quite serious, Malik conceded the rubber after a minute. Malik was seen writhing in pain, quite a disheartening sight for the tennis faithfuls.
The Korean captain expressed his disappointment about the rubber ending the way it did, but emphasised that his player was good enough to take care of the match in any case.
India 0 trails Korea 2 (V. M. Ranjeet lost to Cho Min Hyeok 6-1, 6-0, 6-1; Vijayant Malik lost to Jeong Suk-Young 6-4, 7-5, 3-0 retired).