India were left to battle it out in the Asian zone again after Ramkumar Ramanathan lost the must-win singles tie to Denis Shapovalov in Edmonton on Sunday. However, there was some consolation for India as they ended on a positive note with Yuki Bhambri winning the dead fifth rubber against Brayden Schnur.
In the end, it all came down to the doubles defeat for India, as they lost the play-off tie 2-3 while Canada are back to the elite Davis Cup World Group.
India needed Ramanathan to create some magic on the final day of the tie but his failure to convert chances proved crucial as world No 51 Shapovalov shut the door on India with a 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-3 win which handed Canada an unassailable 3-1 lead.
With the result already decided, Bhambri topped Schnur 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in a see-saw battle, where he has to overcame lapse of concentration and an early break in the deciding set to finally convert his fifth match point.
It is now fourth straight year that India have not managed to cross the Play-offs hurdle, having lost to Serbia, Czech Republic and Spain in previous three attempts.
In a nervous start, Ramanathan lost 11 straight points but gradually the serve and volley strategy helped him negate Shapovalov’s fiery ground strokes. The top-ranked Indian took some time to settle while Shapovalov had gone up 4-1 with a break of serve in the opening set.
It was one-way traffic till the eighth game as the Canadian left-hander lost only three points till he came out to serve out the opening set. Ramanathan tried to serve and volley but Shapovalov was quick with his returns, hardly giving time to the Indian to charge the net finish the points.
The Indian did pose a few question in the ninth game with some sharp returns, earning two breakpoints, but Shapovalov used his big serve to save both and served it out with an ace.
Ramanathan grew in confidence and put up a much better fight in the second set as he served two games at love. The chip and charge strategy paid good dividends as he led 5-4. However, the good work came to a naught as he could not convert any of the four set points he earned in the 12th game and eventually lost the tie-breaker with his fifth double fault of the match.
Despite put under pressure, Shapovalov won 13 of the last 15 points of the second set. While Ramanathan could take none of the six break chances he got, Shapovalov lifted himself from tricky situations easily. In the third set, Shapovalov broke the Indian at love in the sixth game to open up a 4-2 lead and clinched the tie in the ninth game on an unforced error from Ramanathan
Canada, who had lost to Great Britain in the first round in February, will now go back to elite 16-nation World Group, while India will yet compete in the Asia/Oceania Group I in the 2018 season.