India, Canada test each other, share honours
Ramkumar Ramanathan fetched the crucial win but Yuki Bhambri made the day memorable even in defeat as India and Canada shared the honours on day one of the Davis Cup World Group Play-off tie.
Yuki turned the match on its head after being down by two sets and a match point in the third set but eventually lost 6-7(2) 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 1-6 to world No.51 Denis Shapovalov -- an audacious performance in a 3 hours and 52 minutes battle.
It happened after 22-year-old Ramkumar, ranked 154th, tamed debutant Brayden Schnur 5-7 7-6(4) 7-5 7-5 in the first singles, which was also a marathon match lasting three hours and 16 minutes. “Boys played with a lot of heart...the plan was to fight regardless of the score and Ram swung a losing battle and Yuki almost did too,” Indian captain Mahesh Bhupathi said. “The pressure remains on them. If we fight like this anything is possible.”
This defeat would rankle Yuki for sometime as Shapovalov had started feeling the heat following the Indian’s perseverance. The left-handed Shapovalov unleashed his power-packed game from the beginning and Yuki was mostly left to defend but after taking the third set from the home favourite, it was the Indian who dictated the terms. An early break in the fifth set again shifted the momentum in Shapovalov’s favour. The Canadian found his mojo after breaking Yuki in the third and broke him again in the sixth game to take a 5-1 cushion and clinched the issue with a crushing forehand winner.
Earlier, a dogged Ramkumar Ramanathan battled past a fighting Schnur to remain unbeaten in the Davis Cup in the 2017 season, having won all five matches he has played. A powerful serve was the most potent weapon for Ramkumar but lack of pace in his strokes often made him vulnerable, of which Schnur took advantage many a times in the contest.
Ramkumar wriggled out of crunch situations with his gritty serving and saved as many as 15 of the 18 breakpoints which indeed titled the energy-sapping match in his favour. More often than not, the Indian served wide and deep to the left of the Schnur, making the returns difficult, which helped him open the court for easy winners.