Sumit Nagal fought fire with fire to bring India back in the Davis Cup World Group Play-off tie against Denmark, winning the second singles after Yuki Bhambri was outplayed in the opening match here Friday.
It was always a tall task for Bhambri to counter world number nine Holger Rune and there was no surprise as Denmark's top singles player raced to a 6-2 6-2 win to put the hosts up 1-0. Up against a formidable rival, Yuki needed a special effort but he went down in mere 58 minutes.
Nagal, India's number one player, though erased a one-set deficit to pip August Holmgren 4-6 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 27 minutes to make it 1-1 at the end of day one. The 25-year-old Nagal, ranked 506, dropped serve in the very first game of the match but once he got hold of his nerves, he was his usual fighting self.
He got the break back but squandered the chances when Holmgren offered them. The Danish player, ranked 484, eventually sealed the set. In the second set, it was Nagal who drew the first blood and went up 5-2. He served out the set in the ninth game to force a decider.
Nagal had a chance to get the first break when he made a deep return and Holmgren's forehand return sailed over the baseline at 30-all but the home player served well to save the chance. Nagal got another chance when Holmgren netted a forehand at deuce point in the third game but he himself made a forehand error on the breakpoint.
While Nagal preferred to hit from the baseline, Holmgren often charged the net often to create chances for volley winners. Holmgren handed Nagal another break chance when he tried to pick a low volley but could not keep the ball in the court and followed that up with a double fault, allowing the Indian to take a mini 3-2 lead.
That lead stayed with Nagal and he came out serving for the match in the 10th game. Holmgren's forehand error gave the Indian three match points and converted the first one on home team player's unforced error.
In the opening singles, 19-year-old Rune broke Bhambri twice in each set. Rune converted four of the seven break chances while the Indian did not get a single chance to break his opponent.
Rune played percentage tennis while Yuki struggled with his first serve, double faulting four times in the lop-sided contest being played at indoor hard courts. Yuki has quit singles on the ATP Tour. On Saturday, doubles and reverse singles will be played. If India lose this tie, they will be relegated to World Group II.