In many ways, India’s Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I play-off tie against New Zealand was similar to the recently concluded India-New Zealand Test series. Just like the Indian cricket team, the tennis team, even without the big guns, was far superior than the New Zealand on quality.
Just like the cricket team, they completed a whitewash. And just like in cricket, where despite the presence of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir, it was a certain Cheteshwar Pujara who stole the show at Hyderabad; in Chandigarh, local lad Sanam Singh came up with India’s most convincing win in the final rubber on Sunday.
With India having won the tie on Saturday itself, the dead reverse singles rubbers were reduced to best of three tie-break set affairs, unlike the normal format of five-set matches. However, India’s No 1 singles player Yuki Bhambri and third choice singles player Sanam Singh made the rubbers a lot more interesting than the dead ones, in their own ways. While Yuki, later on declared by the non-playing captain S P Mishra as ‘not focussed’, survived a spirited Jose Statham and his own error-prone game in two hours and 41 minutes, Sanam enthralled the crowd with some brilliant running winners, and powerful backhands.
Like the second Test
It could have so easily gone the New Zealand’s way (just like the second cricket Test). Daniel King-Turner led Yuki by 2-0 on Friday, Vishnu Vardhan and Divij Sharan needed five sets to win the doubles rubber on Saturday, and Yuki’s match against Statham went the distance yesterday, the Indian winning 2-6, 7-5, 7-6.
And that precisely is the reason why Sanam Singh’s 77-minute demolition of Artem Sitak, even though the Kiwi is ranked 338 places below him in the rankings, stood out. It was not just about the scoreline of 6-4, 6-1, India’s only straight set win in the tie, or the duration, but it was about the way the not-so-tall lad came up with blazing winners from both flanks. With his physique, one would hardly expect huge power from groundstrokes, Sitak included, but that’s what the crowd got to see on Sunday.
Another thing that won a lot of applause was the 24-year-old’s ability to chase down the balls from one side to the other. “It’s got to do with my size. I can take small and quick steps because I am not very big,” was Sanam’s simple and plain assertion when asked about his speed and agility.
The tie might have been well and truly over on Saturday, but Sanam’s performance yesterday, in extreme heat and humidity, has put up some interesting prepositions for India’s next Asia-Oceania tie, in February. Should Somdev Devvarman and Leander Paes be back for that tie, it would be a really tough choice.
Czech Republic, Spain in final
Buenos Aires/ Gijon: Tomas Berdych defeated Carlos Berlocq 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 yesterday as the Czech Republic secured a 3-1 win over Argentina to make the Davis Cup final. They will clash with Spain in the summit round. David Ferrer defeated John Isner as Spain beat United States by identical margin in another semi-final.