NEW DELHI, Sep 18 (IANS): Somdev Devvarman brought out his fighting best to beat a player ranked 124 places above him and keep India on course for an unexpected coup over the Czech Republic tennis team in the Davis Cup World Group Playoff here on Friday.
Following Yuki Bhambri’s straight sets loss to Lukas Rosol in the opening rubber at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) complex, another loss would have seen India on the brink of an exit.
But Devvarman, who has not lost in the national capital since 2010, reserved his best for the second rubber, beating World No.40 Jiri Vesely 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 44 minutes on the slow and bouncy outdoor rebound ace hard courts to level the contest at 1-1.
India needed Devvarman to win and he did not disappoint as he started in brilliant fashion, matching stroke-for-stroke against his 22-year-old opponent.
Though there were a few breakpoint chances here and there, both players held their serve, leading to the tie-breaker. The 30-year-old Indian looked far more commanding on the court and easily won the settler 7-3.
Devvarman got the break immediately in the second set, but was broken back in the eighth game.
With Vesely serving to stay in the match, and under pressure, the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion took advantage of that and attacked the second service to break the Czech in the 10th and final game and take a 2-0 lead in the match.
By now, the mugginess, humidity, plus with the sun playing hide and seek, the conditions were making it worse for the European youngster. He started to look tired and the end result showed that.
Devvarman took the third set in only 31 minutes, as compared to the 69 and 64 minutes taken for the first and the second sets, and only one break of serve was enough for the 2010 Asiad champion to seal the third set and take home the match.
Earlier in the day, Rosol had to fight the crowd, weather and a spirited fightback from Bhambri to beat the Indian and give the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead. World No.85 Rosol had to endure the extremely humid conditions to beat Bhambri 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 in an hour and 56 minutes.
Bhambri had a good start with clean serves and won the first two games of his serve rather easily. But right then, Rosol stepped it up to win the next five games and take home the set in only 24 minutes. He broke the local boy thrice and held serve with ease to win the set comfortably.
Bhambri could not match Rosol's on-court movement and ground strokes. But the heat and humidity were getting to the Czech as he needed his ice pack from the first game itself.
Despite the adverse conditions, Rosol continued his rampage, winning the first four games of the second set, and nine in a row. World No.125 Bhambri was broken twice and it came as a relief to the Indian when he just about managed to hold serve in the fifth game of the set.
Rosol needed his towel after almost every two points but that did not stop him from winning the sixth and seventh games to clinch the second set in half an hour, pleasing the applauding Czech ambassador to India Milan Hovorka, who was in attendance.
With good support from the growing home crowd, Bhambri tried to fight back in the third set. The 23-year-old made Rosol commit errors and broke the Czech for the first time in the third game.
However, it did not take much time for the superior Rosol to break back in the sixth game, levelling the set at 3-3.
Rosol had now decided to up the ante and clinched the next two games to win the match. With Bhambri's groundstroke going into the net, Rosol gave the visitors the lead.