India’s chances of qualifying for the World Group suffered a setback when Rohan Bopanna and Purav Raja lost the doubles rubber to Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil on Saturday. The Canadians won 7-5, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 in two hours and 52 minutes, giving their team a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup Play-off tie at Edmonton.
Pospisil, 27, was the youngest on court and the only one who plays the singles as well on the Tour. He made a huge difference to the outcome with his returns from near the baseline and perfect placements at the net. He was not nominated for the singles by his captain due to his rough patch, but he troubled both the Indians consistently and carried the home team on his shoulders as 45-year-old Nestor came under pressure several times.
Raja, who has made good progress on the circuit along with Divij Sharan, was superb at the net with his deft volley winners but limitations with his serve and baseline strokes hurt India. Drafted into the side in the last minute, Raja dropped his serve five times in the match – twice while serving under pressure at 5-6 in the first two sets.
Bopanna’s big serving game was also missing as he served five double faults in team’s total of 12. His single- handed backhand winners were nowhere to be seen.
The second set began with a rare four straight breaks of serve before Pospisil held in the fifth. But the match was briefly overshadowed by a controversial point in the second game when Raja, standing very close to the net, was found guilty of playing the ball before it crossed the net and the chair umpire gave the point to the Canadians.
A furious Indian captain Mahesh Bhupathi argued with the umpire along with Bopanna but the umpire did not budge and the referee asked the players to continue the game and it ended up with Bopanna losing the serve.
There was chance for the Indians to get another break Nestor’s serve but could not utilise any of the three chances in the seventh game. Raja yet again came out to serve at 5-6 and again dropped serve to hand the Canadians a two-set lead.
The third set was on even keel at 3-3 when Nestor dropped serve to hand India a mini-lead. It was Bopanna’s return winner which gave the Indians breakpoint which was converted as the left-hander served a double fault.
However, the Indians could not consolidate the lead with Raja yet again dropping serve with a double fault at 30-40. India stared at defeat in the 10th on Bopanna’s serve but he held his nerves with an ace.
In a sudden change of momentum, Nestor found himself down 0-40 in the next game and lost serve to allow Raja to serve out the third set in the 12th. The Canadians regrouped quickly, broke Raja in the fourth and pulled away with a comfortable 4-1 lead. Pospisil sealed the match for his side when Bopanna’s awkwardly-picked return from close to body, went wide.
India now needs to win both its reverse singles rubbers on Sunday in order to reach the World Group, where Yuki Bhambri will play Brayden Schnur and Ramkumar Ramanathan will take on Denis Shapovalov.