Tennis

Disappointing opening day for India

Brazil's Melo came back from a set down to beat Somdev Devvarman in a Davis Cup tie in Cehnnai on Friday. Photo: R. Ragu

Brazil's Melo came back from a set down to beat Somdev Devvarman in a Davis Cup tie in Cehnnai on Friday. Photo: R. Ragu  

Two draining five-set losses spelled a double-whammy for India in its Davis Cup World Group play-off against Brazil at the SDAT Tennis Stadium here on Friday.

First up, Rohan Bopanna went down fighting to World No. 27 Thomaz Bellucci, and in the second singles, Somdev Devvarman lost a baseline slugfest to Ricardo Mello, putting India two matches in arrears.

Earlier, much happened. Match-points were saved, a medical time-out availed of and 51 aces fired in. But in the end, after four hours and 28 minutes, Bellucci dashed India's hopes with a 6-7(2), 7-6(7), 7-5, 4-6, 10-8 win over Bopanna, giving Brazil a 1-0 lead.

Squandered chances

Bopanna had only himself to blame. The 30-year-old squandered three points for a two sets to love lead and failed to convert three match-points on Bellucci's serve (at 2-5) in the decider.

Looking down the barrel, Bellucci took a medical time-out, possibly a strategic attempt at breaking Bopanna's rhythm, and clawed to 5-5, triggering a series of holds, up to 8-8, before breaking Bopanna at love to go 9-8 up.

Serving for the match, the Brazilian clinched it when his rival's backhand floated long, crumpling to the ground spent, as Bopanna trundled to his chair and to the sad and lonely confines of his towel.

“I did not miss any points. He hit three winners,” said Bopanna when asked of his submission, twice over, after being advantageously situated.

“Had I won the second set, the match might have taken a different course. I haven't been playing singles regularly and that might have made the difference today,” he added.

Bopanna out-aced his higher-ranked opponent 27 to 24, but converted just five of 17 break points while Bellucci converted six of eight. The Indian had Bellucci on the run for most of the first few minutes.

Losing initiative

After taking the first set in a tie-break, he rushed to 6-3 in the second-set breaker, failing to convert three set points for a 2-0 lead as Bellucci came up with three sizzling backhands.

The initiative lost, and the breaker score at 7-7, Boppana surrendered a mini-break for 7-8 and could only stare in amazement as Bellucci ripped an ace to win the second set from a ruinous position.

Bellucci was inconsistent from the baseline, although he did effect a few comely drop shots, while Boppana sparkled in his approaches. An extra break in the 11th game handed the third set to Bellucci, who served it out 7-5.

In the fourth, it was again a solitary break that separated the two, Bopanna winning it 6-4 to take the match into a decider.

Mello rallies

Up next, Devvarman was on court for four hours and 12 minutes in his 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 4-6 loss to Mello. The Indian appeared to have the upper hand after he took a 2-1 lead in sets, but Mello stepped it up in the last two. In the final set, Mello turned it on, going up a break (4-3), but Devvarman broke back immediately (4-4). Alas, it was his last hurrah, as Mello broke him again and closed out the match 6-4 on his serve. Devvarman converted five of his 14 break points, while Mello made good nine of 16.

“We could have lost both matches today, but we won them both. All four players on court today showed a great ability to fight. Ricardo was very aggressive towards the end and was going for his shots all the time,” said Joao Zwetsch, non-playing captain, Brazil.

The results: Thomaz Bellucci (Bra) bt Rohan Bopanna (Ind) 6-7(2), 7-6(7), 7-5, 4-6, 10-8; Ricardo Mello (Bra) bt Somdev Devvarman (Ind) 4-6, 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4.

Saturday's match: Mahesh Bhupathi & Leander Paes (Ind) vs Marcelo Melo & Bruno Soares (Bra).

Play starts at 3 p.m.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:37:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/Disappointing-opening-day-for-India/article15972202.ece

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