Yuki Bhambri returned to Davis Cup action with a commanding win while Ramkumar Ramanathan did not even need his 'A game' to emerge victorious as India grabbed a 2-0 lead in the World Group I Play-off tie against Denmark on Friday. Taking full advantage of the Danish player's discomfort on the low bounce grass court, Ramkumar cruised to a 6-3 6-2 win over Christian Siggsgaard, ranked as low as 824, in the opening singles of the tie at Delhi Gymkhana Club. There was hardly any fight in the match, that lasted just 59 minutes, as Christian made it easy for the 170th-ranked Indian with his unending unforced errors.
Yuki, playing Davis Cup for the first time since 2017, doubled India's lead with a 6-4 6-4 win in the second singles against Mikael Torpegaard, who, though served and stroked confidently to keep the Indian camp on edge. It was clear that India's strategy to host Denmark on grass courts worked well as tackling the low bounce indeed troubled the visitors. Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan will now strive to seal the tie for India on Saturday when they take court for the doubles match against Frederik Nielsen and Johannes Ingildsen. If they win, India will keep their place in the World Group I and the reverse singles will be rendered inconsequential.
"In Davis Cup, it's more about fighting than playing well. I fought well and hard today," Yuki said after his win. "The match was always on my racquet, it was always in my control. It was a matter of stringing a few points together," he said when asked about scoreline changing from 4-1 to 5-4 in second set. Skipper Rohit Rajpal praised both his singles players. "Yuki played at a high level. He was match sharp. Ramkumar too played with confidence. He was sharp in the first set. The idea was to keep it low and trouble them. The players executed the strategy well. We had planned to go up 2-0 and we did that," he said.
Ramkumar too was pleased with his effort. "I served pretty well, I was sharp. The team and fan support also made the big difference. I just had to stay with the ball and make returns. A few free points also did the trick," he said. Despite dropping his serve in the opening game, Torpegaard did not let Yuki seize the momentum. Whether it was stroking from baseline, serving, swift movement on both flanks or charging the net, Torpegaard did all to prevent it from becoming a one-sided affair like the first singles. He got the break back in the fourth game and what followed was engrossing tennis from both the players. Yuki broke his rival one more time -- in the ninth game -- and saved break chances in the 10th to eventually nose ahead.
The first game of the second set was the most fiercely-fought game of the day as it featured as many as five deuce points. Ironically, it ended with Torpegaard's double fault and all the hard work the Danish player had put in came to a naught. Yuki made it 2-0 with a hold in the next game. The perfectly placed forehand slices gave Yuki another chance to break in the third game. Torpegaard only helped Yuki's cause when he netted a half-volley. From there on, it looked like a formality though Torpegaard kept fighting hard. Yuki dropped serve in the eighth game when he was serving for the match and soon from 4-1 it was 5-4.
Yuki ensured there was no more drama as he served out the match in the 10th game when Torpegaard could not return the ball with his backhand. In the first singles, Christian struggled with his serve, committing as many as three double faults in the second game of the opening set and was down a breakpoint but Ramkumar could not capitalise on that chance. Ramkumar mostly used backhand slices for returns and stayed solid on his service games. Christian again handed Ramkumar a break chance when he double-faulted at 30-all in the fourth game.
A long rally ensued with both players putting to use their backhand slice stroke but Ramkumar eventually prevailed. There were not many points when the lanky Indian charged the net, a strategy which was expected to be followed by him, but the error-prone game of Christian made it easy for Ramkumar. The Indian had three set points in the eighth game but could convert none. He sealed the opening set in the next game with a solid serve that Christian could not return, netting a backhand. In the second set, it was Christian who blinked first, going down 0-40 in the third game.
He began with a double fault and Ramkumar put his rival under more pressure with a stunning forehand crosscourt return winner. Christian then netted a return. The Danish player handed the break to the home player when he hit a backhand long on the third breakpoint. There was no end to Christian's struggle and Ramkumar finished the match with an ace in the eighth game after failing to convert four match points in the previous game.