Ramkumar, Bhambri cruise on grass to give India 2-0 lead in Davis Cup tie


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India’s plan to host Denmark on grass courts proved to work as straight-sets win for Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan gave them a 2-0 lead in the World Group I Play-off tie on Friday.

World No 170 Ramkumar cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win over Christian Siggsgaard, ranked at 824, in the opening singles of the tie at Delhi Gymkhana Club, taking full advantage of the Danish player’s discomfort on the low-bouncing surface. Bhambri, 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 put up a fight despite the straight-sets win.

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan will now look to seal the tie for India on Saturday when they take play 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.

Bhambri, making his return from a long injury, broke serve in the first game but the world No 305 Dane fought back admirably.

Whether it was baseline exchanges or serving and 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. Bhambri broke his rival one more time — in the ninth game – but had to save break points to finally serve it out.

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. It ended with Torpegaard’s double fault and all the hard work the Danish player had put in came to a naught. Bhambri then raced to a 4-0 lead.

From there on, it looked like a formality though Torpegaard kept fighting hard. Bhambri dropped serve in the eighth game when he was serving for the match and soon from 4-1 it was 5-4. But the Indian 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, Siggsgaard 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. The Dane handed a break chance when he double-faulted at 30-all in the fourth game, which the Indian converted.

The error-prone game made it easy for Ramkumar, who didn’t serve and volley as much as he was expected to the grass courts. 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 Siggsgaard 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.

(With Inputs from PTI)

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