Youngsters do the job, help India stay in Group I
Chandigarh: Vishnu Vardhan scripted a clinical singles victory and then combined with Divij Sharan to win the heart-stopping doubles rubber as India`s young guns lived up to the expectations by winning the Davis Cup Group 1 relegation play-off tie against New Zealand here today.
Keeping their slate clean on the back of some superb performances by the youngsters, India have taken an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Asia/Oceania tie at the CLTA tennis stadium.
The result meant that India will stay in the Asia/Oceania Group in the 2013 season and will strive to regain entry into the elite 16-team World Group.
Vishnu took just 31 minutes in the morning to complete the win against Jose Statham in the second singles, which was halted yesterday due to fading light.
Up by two sets, Vishnu roared to a 6-2 6-7(5) 6-4 6-2 win against the Kiwi number one player, ranked 55 places below him at 317.
He then paired up with Divij, playing in his debut Davis Cup match, to edge past the Kiwi duo of Michael Venus and Daniel King-Tuner 7-6 (3) 4-6 6-3 6-7 (4) 6-3 in the marathon third rubber, which lasted three hours and 52 minutes.
The two doubles team dished out high quality tennis and it needed nerves of steel to come through the pressure game. Fortunes fluctuated and both teams had chances to outdo each other, but the Kiwis could not capitalise on the opportunities.
The experience of playing together on the Challenger Tour helped Vishnu and Divij as good chemistry often plays a vital role in tight matches.
It was only for the second time since 1995 that neither Leander Paes nor Mahesh Bhupathi, who have 25 Grand Slam titles between them and also a record 23-match winning streak in Davis Cup, was playing in the doubles rubber for India.
It is difficult to say whether India would have rolled over the Kiwis had their been Paes and Bhuapthi or Rohan Bopanna, but the two youngsters showed that they had the heart, and the legs, to compete in such pressure-cooker situation.
The Kiwis had initially chosen Artem Sitak for the doubles rubber, but then preferred to go with the tested combination of Daniel and Venus, who play together on the Tour and also did the Davis Cup duty against Uzbekistan.
Yuki had given India the lead yesterday by winning a gruelling five-setter against Daniel.
Thanks to India`s dominance, tomorrow`s reverse singles tie will be an inconsequential one. Sanam Singh will play against Daniel in place of Vishnu, and Yuki will clash with Statham.
In the second singles, which had a 90-minute delayed start due to rain, Vishnu came to the court with a strategy to play aggressively, and executed it perfectly.
Statham had given a good fight to Vishnu yesterday but today he was unable to handle the India`s assault.
Vishnu`s powerful serve and returns had Statham gasping and his game fell apart.
The set was locked 2-2 when Vishnu fired a backhand service winner and Statham erred on a backhand return to give the Indian two break points.
The pressure got to the Kiwi and Statham committed another backhand error, putting Vishnu up by a break.
Vishnu then sent down two aces to earn three match points. He sealed the victory with a forehand winner and raised his arms in joy.
The doubles match turned to be a very tight one with Venus and Daniel putting up a gallant fight.
There was little to separate the two teams. They were serving well, agile at the net and stroked with precision.
Handling crucial points was key and the Indians just about managed to do a shade better than the Kiwis.
The first set went full distance and it was decided through tie-breaker after the four players held their serves.
A set in pocket, a lead of 4-2 following a break of Venus` serve in the second, had put Vishnu and Divij in good position, but the Kiwis did not throw in the towel and stunned the Indians with successive breaks.
They broke Vishnu in the seventh game and Divij in the ninth to go 5-4 up and then Venus drew parity by serving out the set in the next.
After saving two break chances off Vishnu in the first game, the Indians got two consecutive breaks which gave them a 5-2 cushion. Vishnu served India to a 2-1 lead and a set away from pocketing the tie.
The Kiwis kept pushing hard and yet again scared the hosts by breaking Divij. But the Indians negated that by breaking Venus` serve in the seventh game.
The Indians squandered three break chances in the 11th game and that proved costly as it allowed the rivals to stretch the issue to the tie-breaker, in which they eventually prevailed to push the match to the fifth set.
The decisive set went on serve till the fifth game. Two errors by Venus off his own serve handed India the break and a 4-2 lead, which was soon under threat when Vishnu faced two break points in the next game.
However, the youngster fired two aces and saved the game to make sure that Divij gets the chance to serve for the match.
Daniel hit a forehand return long to put India a point away from the win and then netted another forehand on the tie point to trigger celebration in the Indian camp.