Somdev Devvarman fought like a true warrior to lock the tie with his stunning victory in the fourth rubber while Yuki Bhambri was locked in an engrossing battle in the decider, halted by rain mid-way, as India’s hopes were still hanging by thread in the David Cup World Group play-off tie against Serbia, here Sunday.
Somdev, who has endured a tough season coming into this tie, carved out a heroic 1-6 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3 win over world number 61 Dusan Lajovic to bring the tie to level terms.
Playing in a live fifth rubber for the first in his short Davis Cup career, Yuki was trailing 3-6 4-4 against 107th ranked Krajinovic when rain started to lash the KSLTA courts, forcing suspension of play.
In the 114-year-old history of Davis Cup, there have been only 51 instances when nations have came back from 0-2 to win the tie and India have done that only once when they beat Brazil in 2010 in Chennai. Somdev had won the fourth rubber then and Rohan Bopanna won the fifth.
If India have to do it second time, Yuki will have to play his best and grab chances against Krajinovic as both the players are tremendous stroke makers.
Overcoming a sluggish start, Somdev battled hard for three hours and 37 minutes to dish out a memorable win.
After being drubbed in the first set, Somdev showed amazing strength in his legs and an intelligent brain as he regrouped amazingly to counter a very good opponent, who had reached French Open pre-quarterfinals this season.
Somdev saved eight breakpoints in the second set to revive his and India’s chances and switched to serve and volley at crucial junctures, surprising his opponent.
Somdev was rewarded for taking risk as he is not a serve and volley player and has struggled in the past while coming forward to finish points.
Lajovic had dictated terms with his huge service game, at the start but after receiving treatment in his left leg after the second set he lost his rhythm, giving Somdev chance to gather his game.
Initially Somdev could not play his usual retrieving game but as the match progressed he could engage Lajovic in long points, giving himself chances to find cracks in the Serbian’s game.
His serve became better and better and he also succeded in finishing points quickly.
Somdev had a break point in the very first game but he was nowhere close to his game as he could won only three points on Lajovic’s serve in the first set. Lajovic served huge and opened the court with ease to smash winners.
The Serbian kept hitting on Somdev’s backhand and broke him in the fourth and sixth game to pocket the set in just 29 minutes. Somdev was uncharacteristically subdued. His game has always been of retrieving but he could not engage the Serbian in long rallies.
Lajovic finished games lightening quick as he served out most the game at love.
Somdev continued to struggle in the second set but somehow managed to hold serve. He saved three breakpoints in the first game, two in the third and another two in the fifth to stay afloat as he kept Lajovic engaged in the fight.
Lajovic received treatment for a problem in his left leg and that affected his performance. He struggled with his movement and serve, allowing Somdev to get back. The Indian had three chances to break Lajovic in the sixth but could capitalise on none. Somdev saved another chance in the ninth and now Lajovic was serving to stay in the set.
For the first time the serve of the Serbian was under pressure. Somdev hit a forehand winner down the line to earn a set point and that was converted as Lajovic hit a forehand long.
With the crowd cheering for the son of the soil, the momentum shifted in India’s favour as Somdev raced to a 4-1 lead in the third set, riding on an early break.
However, Lajovic was not ready to cave in and reeled off four games on the trot, breaking Somdev in the seventh and ninth games and stunned the Indian camp and the home fans by serving out the set in the next game.
The fans witnessed a phenomenal fight in the second game of the fourth set as the two players fought tooth and nail for points, playing six deuce points as Lajovic saved a break chance to finally hold his serve.
But the Serbian was now feeling the heat. Somdev was now serving and returning well. Lajovic could not play on Somdev’s backhand and points were no longer finishing quickly.
The Indian broke Lajovic at love in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead but lost serve in the next. They exchanged break of serve again before Somdev snatched advantage again with a backhand winner on the next chance. He served out the set with a serve and volley point.
Somdev was now approaching the net more consistently and was rewarded. He saved a breakpoint in the second game and went ahead in the decider by breaking Lajovic in the third game when a forehand from the Serbian sailed over the baseline.
Another forehand error from Lajovic at 30-40 in the seventh handed Somdev a chance to serve out the match and he did that with an inside out forehand winner.
Later in the fifth match, Yuki, the 22-year-old lad from Delhi looked jittery and stiff against Krajonovic at the start but found his rhythm after his nerves settled. He lost serve twice in the opening set to trail but the fight was on as he broke Krajinovic in the second game of the second set to take a 2-0 lead.
The advantage though was lost when dropped serve in the third and yet again in the fifth to trail 2-3. Yuki played with a lot of confidence and stroked fluently and got the break back when he converted his third breakpoint in the eighth game to make it 4-4.
Immediately after that break, rain started to lash the KSLTA courts and play was suspended.