Bopanna, Amritraj hands India 2-0 lead in Davis Cup

April 11th, 2008 - 9:56 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

New Delhi, April 11 (IANS) Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna survived some tense moments to seal marathon five-setters and give India a 2-0 lead against a fighting Japan on the first day of the Asia-Oceania Group I second round Davis Cup tie here Friday. Amritraj saved two match points in the fifth set to beat Go Soeda of Japan 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 8-6 in the second singles that lasted a little over four hours in sweltering heat at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association here.

In the first match, Bopanna overcame a sore knee to quell the challenge of teenage sensation Kei Nishikori 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 in two hours and 25 minutes.

After Bopanna gave India a 1-0 lead, the hosts seemed like squandering the advantage when Amritraj lost the first two sets. But he dug deep and toiled hard to prevail over 156th ranked Japanese Soeda, who braved hot and humid conditions to keep the pressure on Amritraj.

Soeda displayed high quality tennis from the baseline negating his opponent’s net play with his immaculate down the line passing shots.

Soeda showed greater control over his groundstrokes, but that was not enough to save the day for him.

Amrtraj’s volleying was tentative to start with as he moved up on poor approach shots, but he improved as the game progressed and brought off great winners at crucial moments of the game.

Soeda raised hopes of squaring the tie as he raced to a two sets lead. He broke Amritraj as early as in the first game and then held on to his own serve to pocket the first set. Soeda cruised along and took the second set in tie-break 6-7 (5).

Amritraj lost his composure after losing the first two sets and threw his racket in disgust. He soon recovered and scripted a remarkable comeback to clinch the third and fourth sets to take the match into a decider.

In the 12th game of the decider, Amritraj saved two match points to draw level 6-6 and in the very next game he broke Soeda’s serve..

However, the Japanese earned three break points in Amritraj’s next service game, but squandered all. The players traded deuce thrice in the game but unforced errors eventually undid Soeda.

Bopanna, who spearheaded India’s challenge against Uzbekistan in the last tie, was made to sweat by 18-year-old Nishikori, who became the first Japanese player to win an ATP event in the Delray Beach International final in February.

The Indian played his trademark game, rushing the net frequently while debutant Nishikori preferred to stay back.

Nishikori’s strategy was to force Bopanna to make errors by keeping the ball in play. Twice he fought back after losing a set to take the match into a decider.

Bopanna, who struggled with his sore left knee, committed many unforced errors but what saved him was his booming serve. The lanky Indian fired 22 aces as against his opponent’s eight. Time and again Bopanna extricated himself from difficult situations with well-directed aces.

Bopanna faced a stiff resistance in the very first set but managed to pocket it in the tiebreaker in 41 minutes. However, the Japanese came back strongly in the next set and broke the Bangalorean’s serve in the second game to draw level 6-3 in just 22 minutes.

In the third set Bopanna broke Nishikori twice — second and 10th games — while the Japanese pulled one back before Bopanna clinched the set in 32 minutes.

Nishikori, however, rejuvenated himself after a rest period, and ran though the fourth set, breaking Bopanna twice to take the match into the decider.

Tied at two sets apiece, neither player was prepared to concede an inch. The decider went with serve till the seventh game before Bopanna stepped up a gear and forced Nishikori to hit a ball wide. With the all-important break, Bopanna then served out the set.

With 2-0 up, India will look to seal the tie Saturday when the Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will team up after the Doha Asian Games to take on Satoshi Iwabuchi and Takao Suzuki.

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