Somdev, India, stunned!

Plans got derailed after Devvarman's defeat, laments skipper Misra as India trail hosts Japan 0-2

Two words describe Japan's opening day singles performance against India: brutal and brilliant. The Japanese were brutal in the manner in which they packed off the Indians while Yuichi Sugita and Kei Nishikori played brilliant tennis to vanquish Somdev  Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna.

Outplayed: Somdev Devvarman reacts after losing a point against
Japan's Yuichi Sugita. PIC/AFP

India's hopes for remaining in the elite World  Group hang by  the slimmest of threads. Last year in Chennai, India trailed Brazil 0-2 and made history by overcoming that deficit for the first ever time. Well history will have to repeat itself if the Indians are to see of their near invincible opponents. For diehard tennis fans this was one of the most humiliating days in India's Davis Cup history. The Indian tennis players were like our much-vaunted cricketers caving in without a  fight.

Statistics speak louder than words, well this statistic sticks out like a sore thumb. In the two singles matches, India managed just one break point and did not manage to break either of the Japanese players serves.
When this stat was pointed out to captain Shiv Prakash Misra a baffling reply spluttered out. of his mouth. "When things get bad it can even get worse! We all expected Somdev to get a  win but when that did not happen and our plans got derailed. Somdev's shoulder started troubling him and that hampered his play.''

The excuse doesn't cut ice or explain why the Indians couldn't unravel the Japanese's service. Another poser to Misra who only a day earlier had predicted a 4-1 or 3-2 India triumph. Why was Somdev passed fit to play in this vital tie?  "We didn't know about the injury, there were no signs of it. In practice, he has been hitting the ball really well.'' Pearls of wisdom, it appears the injury management crisis is not just confined to cricket!

On a sultry Tokyo afternoon at the Ariake Coliseum there was no indication of the carnage which was about to follow. Somdev was cock sure he would put it across his Japanese opponent. Why not, he enjoyed a 2-1 head-to-head advantage. Somdev is ranked 64 on the ATP computer rankings while Yuichi Sugita is a lowly 174. But rankings as the India Numero Uno rightly put it get "thrown out of the window in Davis Cup.''

For it was Sugita who played like the master and Somdev the pupil. He dictated points and came up with devastating forehand winners. His kick serve had plenty of  bite. Somdev's timing was awry and the heavier balls and slower court did him no favours.

"No excuses. He played far better than me. He returned well, served superbly and hit tremendous forehands. I was a little off the pace but full credit to him,'' said the downcast Somdev. For the record, Sugita won 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. First blood to Japan but one expected Bopanna to go in for the kill, sadly that did not happen. Kei Nishikori, Japan's go to man and the World No 55 was in sublime form. He handled Bopanna's big  serves with aplomb, created openings with acutely angled two-handers. "Sugita's win in the opener was a huge confidence booster,'' Nishikori said after 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.Meanwhile, skipper Misra revealed that Bopanna will play the doubles rubber today.

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