Ramku­mar wins but Yuki loses

The Free Press Journal - - SPORTS -

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 Play­off 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 three hours and 52 min­utes bat­tle.

It hap­pened af­ter 22-year-old Ramku­mar, ranked 154th, tamed the debu­tant 5-7 7-6(4) 75 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 told PTI. "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.

Yuki proved that his re­cent win over world num­ber 22 Gael Mon­fils was no fluke and he give a good fight to the world's top play­ers. The 18year-old Shapo­valov, who re­cently beat the likes of Rafael Nadal, Jo Wil­fred Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro, was play­ing his first ever five-set match and all credit to Yuki for mak­ing his life tough.

The Delhi young­ster played with a lot of ma­tu­rity and showed he has tough­ened up men­tally as he hardly showed nerves de­spite trail­ing by two sets.

The games were short as the two play­ers served even, it was Yuki who had to work harder for the points.

Play­ing smartly, Yuki made his serve to jump from the court by em­ploy­ing more of his shoul­der to cre­ate ex­tra bounce and it helped him hold serve through­out the match.

Yuki also changed his tac­tics in­tel­li­gently in the match, try­ing to re­strict Shapo­valov's fierce fore­hand by feed­ing him more on the back­hand but still the Cana­dian cre­ated some breath­tak­ing ser­vice re­turn win­ners. Af­ter pock­et­ing the open­ing set, Shapo­valov shifted gears with­out fuss in the sec­ond set tie-breaker as he raced to a com­mand­ing 5-1 lead and sealed a 2-0 lead cour­tesy a bar­rage of win­ners that rained through his fore­hand.

The mis­sile-like serves and equally fear­some re­turns con­tin­ued to lash Yuki.

The In­dian was bro­ken in the first game of the must-win third set but broke im­me­di­ately when Shapo­valov dou­ble faulted at deuce and sent a fore­hand long. It was Yuki's first break of the match as he tried to make a fight out of it.

The In­dian also tar­get­ted a few win­ners down the line on both the flanks by mov­ing Shapo­valov on the court. The bat­tle grew in in­ten­sity and Yuki was eat­ing into Shapo­valov's energy with his dogged ap­proach. Af­ter an­other trade of break the set was stretched to a tie-breaker in which Yuki saved a match point at 5-6 and even­tu­ally kept him­self alive by win­ning it.

As the match grew, Shapo­valov started to feel the nerves as Yuki started to re­turn much bet­ter, grow­ing in con­fi­dence. The In­dian broke early in the fourth set and forced a de­cider but un­forced er­rors at cru­cial junc­ture pulled him down. 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.

Sch­nur, on the other hand, packed a lot of power in his ground strokes and was very im­pres­sive with his swift move­ment and court cov­er­age.

But the 202-ranked Cana­dian was hit by a cri­sis of con­fi­dence when Ramku­mar won the sec­ond set and pulled away with the third. Sch­nur looked down and out, trail­ing by two sets to one, and down by a break in the fourth set but found energy to fight when Ramku­mar dropped serve im­me­di­ately. The fourth set was lit­tered with breaks but even­tu­ally Ramku­mar sealed the match with a back­hand win­ner, again well set up with a qual­ity ser­vice.

Sch­nur, to his credit fought well even in fourth set but Ramku­mar's ex­pe­ri­ence helped him clinch the is­sue.

In­dia's Ramku­mar Ra­manathan re­turns to Canada's Sch­nur dur­ing a Davis Cup tennis match in Ed­mon­ton

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