Devvarman-Ti Chen tie suspended at 7-all in fifth set owing to bad light

The original cracker fizzled out, in India’s favour, as Yuki Bhambri pulled through on one leg against Tsung-Hua Yang 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(1), 6-3, but there was no dearth of fireworks as Ti Chen survived four match points against Somdev Devvarman to fight another day when play was suspended owing to bad light at 7-7 in the fifth set in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group ‘I’ tie at the Indore Tennis Club here on Friday.

Ti Chen overcame a spell of errors against India’s No. 1 Somdev 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-2, 7-7, in a gripping contest that has already lasted four hours and 32 minutes.

It promises more on Saturday when play resumes at 11 a.m. The doubles rubber, initially scheduled at noon, will follow the completion of the second singles.

Both players pushed the overall standard of the rubber to world-class levels with their athleticism, deftness of touch, elegant strokeplay, imaginative execution and the unquenchable desire to fight it out that delighted the tennis enthusiasts and kept them entertained throughout.

On a slow and bouncy surface, the suspense and agony prolonged as there was no winner, mainly because Devvarman failed to capitalise on a 5-3 lead in the decider.

He missed three match points at 40-0 in the ninth game, but the 30-year-old Ti Chen deserves credit for sustaining high quality fare despite being forced to tape his palm at 6-6 in the decider.

There was a stroke of luck as well as the net-cord on breakpoint fell in favour of Ti Chen in the ninth game.

Devvarman saved two breakpoints in the 11th game and a long-drawn 13th. Referee David Smith of New Zealand forced the reluctant Chinese Taipei team to play one more game under the inadequate floodlights as rules demanded play to be suspended only after even games.

Ti Chen served well, and closed out the day with a delectable drop shot.

Devvarman was solid overall, as he led 4-2 in the first set and 4-1 in the second. But the Taipei lad pushed him hard with his all-round game. Ti Chen even threatened to run away with the match when he won the third set 6-1, after racing into a 5-0 lead.

Devvarman’s resolve was evident as he turned the tide in his favour, even though he dropped serve on a double fault while serving for the fourth set at 5-1.

The Taipei lad returned the favour, dropping serve with a double fault on set point.

Class act

Earlier, the 21-year-old Yuki Bhambri was a class act as he toyed with Taipei No. 1 Tsung-Hua Yang, all ease and poise as he jumped to a 6-2, 5-2 lead. He even allowed himself the luxury of some exquisite drops.

He did drop serve for the first time at this stage, but saved three breakpoints and converted his second set point to go ahead.

In the third set, things were even at 4-4 before Bhambri seemed to feel a tug in his leg on the first point.

Bhambri did hold serve with ease, and even managed to save a breakpoint in the 12th to force a tie-break despite being in no shape to continue.

Yang won the tie-break, and after some initial hiccups in the fourth set, when he survived three breakpoints in the first two games, Bhambri found life flowing back into his legs.

He transformed to his original self soon and broke Yang in the eighth game after missing two breakpoints in the sixth.

It was authoritative fare all over again as Bhambri served out to love to give India a 1-0 lead in a battle that lasted nearly three hours.

“Thankfully the cramps lasted only a few games. I felt alright in the fourth set,” said Bhambri.

The results: India 1 leads Chinese Taipei 0 (Yuki Bhambri bt Tsung-Hua Yang 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(1), 6-3; Somdev Devvarman vs Ti Chen 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-2, 7-7. Play suspended).

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