India relegated, Japan through to Davis Cup World Group(Lead)

September 18th, 2011 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Davis Cup Tokyo, Sep 18 (IANS) India are relegated to Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I after a crushing 1-4 loss in the World Group play-off to Japan, who are now through to the elite 16 club for the first time since 1985.

Trailing 1-2 in the tie, India more or less resigned to their fate after their top player Somdev Devvarman pulled out with a shoulder strain and it was all over for them when debutant Vishnu Vardhan lost the first reverse singles to Kei Nishikori here Sunday.

Vardhan, whose tennis largely been restricted to the ITF circuit, did well to stretch World No. 55 Nishikori in the first set, but his best was not enough to stop the Japanese from winning in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

In the dead fifth rubber, Rohan Bopanna was 5-4 up against 116th-ranked Go Soeda when he decided to retire because of a toe problem.

India needed to win both the last day’s singles after Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi gave their side a window of opportunity by winning a hard-fought four-setter doubles against Yuichi Sugito and Tatsuma Ito after Somdev and Bopanna lost their singles on the opening day.

While an out-of-sorts Somdev lost 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, Bopanna was rolled over by Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

The Indians came into the tie hoping to regain their place in the World Group, which they had lost after their 1-4 defeat at the hands of defending champions Serbia in first round at Novi Sad in March.

The 24-year-old Vardhan showed enough grit and gumption against Nishikori, but the Japanese, at 21, was a far superior player. Vardhan did manage to hold his own with his booming serve, but lacked the backing ground strokes to match the all-court game of Nishikori.

The youngster from Secunderabad in Andhra Pradesh did well to hang in for quite a while to stretch the first set, holding his serve with relative ease. But his net-rushing in the 11th game was his undoing as Nishikori passed first with a backhand and then on the forehand. That break was enough for the Japanese to serve the set out, finishing it off with an ace.

The Japanese then took the next two sets with a break each, but the Indian can take heart from his decent showing.

The Japan will join the World Group in 2012.

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