Bopanna-Sharan pair keeps India in World Group I after saving three match points

PTI  | Deccan Chronicle

Sports, Tennis

Sharan, playing his first Davis Cup tie since February 2019, and Bopanna came from behind to win 6-7 (4) 6-4 7-6 (4)

India's Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan in action against Denmark's Frederik Nielsen and Mikael Torpegaard during their doubles Davis Cup World Group 1 playoff match in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan saved three match points in an edge-of-the-seat thriller to prevail against a fighting Danish pair of Frederik Nielsen and Mikael Torpegaard as India kept its place in the Davis Cup World Group I by winning the Play-off tie 4-0, here on Saturday.

Sharan, playing his first Davis Cup tie since February 2019, and Bopanna came from behind to win 6-7 (4) 6-4 7-6 (4) in one hour and 58 minutes.

Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan had given India a 2-0 lead on the opening day of the tie on Friday.

The tense win ensured that India will stay in World Group I for the 2022 season, while Denmark will now again go back to World Group II.

Serving to stay in the match in the 12th game of the decider, Sharan faced three match points but the Indian team held nerves to save all, two of them on second serves, to force a final tie-breaker, in which they raced to a 4-1 lead and sealed the win when Torpegaard could not make a return on Bopanna's serve.

It was such a close match that only one break of serve featured when 2012 Wimbledon Champion Nielsen got broken at the beginning of the second set.

Later in the first reverse singles, Ramkumar beat Joahhnes Ingildsen 5-7 7-5 10-7. The fifth match was not played.

Bopanna praised his partner Sharan for serving big under pressure.

"We missed two volleys and that put us under pressure but with lefty serve when there is not enough space is tricky to return. Credit to Divij, he pulled off those second serves and than I had that reflex volley (executed)," Bopanna said of the crucial hold in the 12th game of the third set.

"Even Nielsen later said that the second serve on third match point was quicker than he expected, so he went for a big forehand and missed.

"I was just telling Divij that they will also feel the pressure."

Skipper Rohit Rajpal said they could have played Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the dead fourth rubber but Ramkumar was eager to take court, something which coach Zeeshan Ali said was a "good sign" that all the players want to win matches for India.

Bopanna also said that wins "like this" build camaraderie and that would help in taking the Indian team forward in future and in bigger Davis Cup challenges.

"This is what we need to build on, this is what we have. There is no point talking about somebody going into top-50 or not being there. We have to fight with this," said the 42 year-old.

Ingildsen was supposed to play the doubles but considering that Torpegaard served extremely well against Yuki on Friday, he was paired with his captain.

This is India's first win since they beat Pakistan 4-0 in November 2019 when Rohit Rajpal took over as non-playing captain. After that India lost to Finland (1-3) and Croatia (1-3) in away ties.

Bopanna's big serve was at work since the beginning as he started off with three consecutive aces for an easy hold. Torpeggard and Nielsen too were sharp and solid even as Sharan's serve was put under pressure.

In both the third and seventh games that Sharan served, he was down 15-30 but somehow managed to hold.

Nielsen's smooth-actioned serves and precise placings combined with Torpegaard's firepower made it a tough contest for the home pair.

Nielsen did not lose a single point on his serve in the entire opening set and that made a huge difference.

There was no break of serve in the opening set and a tie-breaker was required. Bopanna lost the first point on his serve and the Danish team opened up a huge 5-1 lead from where Torpegaard found a volley winner on Sharan's return to earn five set points.

Bopanna managed to save two with his booming serves but Torpeggard fired a body serve on Bopanna to seal the opening set.

Ironically, it was Nielsen who blinked in the second set, dropping his serve in the opening game. At 15-30, he could not return one shot from Bopanna to be down by two break chances. He saved the first but double-faulted on the second to hand the Indians an advantage.

That break stayed with the Indians and Sharan served out the set in the 10th to force a decider.

The Indian team had three break chances against Torpegaard in the fifth game but fluffed all. The Danish team showed nerves of steel to hold that crucial game after going down 0-40. Credit to Torpegaard to pull off those big serves under pressure.

Bopanna came out to serve to stay in the match in the 10th game and was under pressure when Torpegaard found a backhand winner to make it 30-all but the Indian held to stay afloat after one deuce point.

Tense moments followed in the 12th game when the Indian team saved three match points before sealing the match in the tie-breaker.

Nielsen double-faulted at 1-2 and then made a backhand overhead volley error to give India a handsome 4-1 lead which proved enough for India to walk out as winners.

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