By the looks of it, India looked like they had come quite close to upsetting Canada in the Davis Cup World Group Play-offs in Edmonton this past weekend. But as it turned out, India’s wait to re-enter the World Group continued as the team went down 3-2 to the eighth-seeded hosts. Amid the disappointing turn of events, there are a couple of significant takeaways for the Indian team.
No pushovers in the singles
Of the four singles rubbers played, India lost two – with Denis Shapovalov playing spoilsport in the singles and reverse singles rubbers – but neither of the two losses was for want of trying.
Yuki Bhambri shook off a two-set deficit to level his singles rubber against Shapovalov on Friday at two-sets all, before surrendering the rubber in the fifth. Likewise, Ramkumar had four sets points in the second set against the 18-year-old on Sunday in their reverse singles rubber. Had he secured the second set, India could have piled on the pressure on the teenager for the rest of the match.
Tough as these losses were, they once again proved that, despite the differences in rankings – Shapovalov is ranked almost 100 places above Bhambri and Ramkumar – the Indian singles players are no pushovers. Neither they were intimidated by their opponent’s stature in the rankings, or the way he had arrived on the scene as the favourite to lead Canada into the World Group. This was prominent on the first day of the tie, when the hosts struggled to level the tie at 1-1.
Ramkumar and Bhambri’s fighting performance provides enough evidence that Indian players have benefited from the exposure they have had in recent months on the Tour. There must be more of the same because that will help India’s prospects in both the arenas – in Davis Cup ties as well as on the ATP tour.
Doubles in disarray?
“We came so close to making it to the World Group but we failed again,” the Indian skipper Mahesh Bhupathi mentioned after the tie. “It was those missed chances throughout the tie that cost us. At this stage if you don’t grab every little opportunity you get, you will have to pay dearly. And till we sort this out, there will be a huge gap between India and the best.”
Bhupathi’s comments came about the general way the tie panned out. However, he may as well been speaking about the doubles rubber that the Indian team of Purav Raja and Rohan Bopanna lost in four sets to Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor.
That the result wasn’t in India’s favour was bad enough. But, what was demoralising from the away team’s perspective that the Canadians weren’t fit and were coming into the rubber on the back of inconsistent results themselves. And, as the rubber unfolded, it became quite obvious that Bopanna and Raja were struggling to build on the momentum from the singles rubber.
Their performance also raised questions about whether India’s Davis Cup campaign has lost ground on the doubles front, while focusing towards the singles. In this context, it is pertinent to remember that while India completed a comprehensive 4-1 rout over Uzbekistan in their Asia/Oceania Group I second-round tie in April in order to qualify for the World Group Play-offs, prior to that one win, they had lost four of their last five doubles rubbers.
This is a concerning offshoot for the country’s Davis Cup prospects, considering that India’s relegation back to the Asia/Oceania Group I could see them facing tougher opponents in the zonal ties.
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