Both India and Canada were stretched in the singles rubbers in the Davis Cup World Group Play-off before finishing on par at 1-1 at the end of the day’s play on Friday. On one hand, these lengthy proceedings displayed the Indians’ tenacity against their seeded opponents. On the other, it also brought out certain nuances from the match-ups themselves from the visitors’ perspective.
Serves as key
Across both results that came about on the day, serve was the most powerful weapon on display.
To begin with, Ramkumar Ramanathan’s win over Brayden Schnur that gave India the 1-0 lead had him convert 73% points off his first serves to the world No 202’s 70%. The Indian No 1’s points margin looked to have wobbled slightly when it came to the points he won off his second serves – 55% to Schnur’s 56%. But, breaking down the statistic across each set would reveal that barring the opening set that he conceded to his opponent, Ramkumar converted more points off his second serves across the latter three sets.
The edge that Ramkumar derived from his relatively better serving also helped him stave off break points to keep himself ahead in the match. Ramkumar faced 18 break points, of which Schnur was only able to convert three – with one break of serve coming in the first set and the other two in the fourth set. Likewise, while Ramkumar faced 11 break points collectively in the third and fourth sets, he saved the lot to keep up the pressure on Schnur to take the win eventually.
In the second rubber, Shapovalov won 79% points off his first serves to Bhambri’s 68% and 60% points off his second serves to Bhambri’s 49%. However, across the third and fourth sets that Bhambri won to keep India alive in the match, the Indian No 2 won more points off his second serves as compared to the world No 51. In the final set again, he conceded points on his second serves – winning 50% to Shapovalov’s 78% – which ended in the rubber going in Canada’s favour.
While Bhambri could only prop up two aces, the 18-year-old Canadian had 20 to his name.
Did being aggressive also count?
As with serves, the winner of each match was determined by the player who took control over the points instead of merely bashing the ball over the net. And, as compared to Ramkumar’s match against Schnur, this aspect was prominent in the second rubber between Shapovalov and Bhambri.
The left-hander’s game proved to be tricky for the Indian who tried to engage in baseline rallies thereby allowing Shapovalov to takeover the control of the point and wrong-foot the Indian. It also helped him reap winners – 45 to Bhambri’s 21. Then again, Bhambri’s tactics paid off as he drew out forced errors off Shapovalov’s racquet – 81 to his 67 – but in not trying to go for broke against the Canadian, whose unexpected variation in shot-making has made him to be an unorthodox player, Bhambri perhaps missed a trick.
Unlike the contest in the second rubber, the first one was more tight. Only nine points separated Ramkumar from Schnur – with the Indian finishing the match with 161 points to Schnur’s 153 – as Ramkumar leveraged the momentum to prise the rubber away from Schnur.