Canada defeats India 3-2 in Davis Cup

India's Yuki Bhambri defeated Canada's Brayden Schnur 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the reverse singles on Sunday. Photo: PTI

September 15

* Singles No. 1: Schnur vs. Ramamnathan – India wins 5-7, 7-6, 7-5

* Singles No. 2: Shapovalov vs. Bhambri – Canada wins 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6, 6-1

 

September 16

* Doubles: Nestor / Pospisil vs. Bopanna / Raja – Canada wins 7-5, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3

 

September 17

* Reverse Singles No. 1: Shapovalov vs. Ramanathan – Canada wins 6-3, 7-6, 6-3

* Reverse Singles No. 2: Schnur vs. Bhambri – India wins 6-4, 4-6, 6-4

  

India’s Yuki Bhambri defeated Canada’s Brayden Schnur 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the reverse singles on Sunday.
Photo: PTI

Edmonton (PTI): India were left to battle it out in the Asian zone yet again after Ramkumar Ramanathan’s defeat in the must-win fourth rubber as Denis Shapovalov steered Canada back to the elite Davis Cup World Group, here Sunday.

India needed Ramkumar to create some magic on the final day of the tie but his failure to convert chances proved crucial as world number 51 Shapovalov shut the door on the visitors with a decisive 6-3 7-6(1) 6-3 win.

Their fate already sealed, Yuki Bhambri won the dead fifth rubber against Brayden Schnur 6-4 4-6 6-4 as India lost the World Group play-off tie 2-3 to the hosts.

In a see-saw battle, Yuki overcame lapse of concentration and an early break in the deciding set to finally convert his fifth match point and finish the indoor away tie.

It is now fourth straight year that India have not managed to cross the play-offs hurdle, having lost to Serbia, Czech Republic and Spain in previous three attempts.

Canada thus have earned their spot back in the 16-nation World Group after losing the first round to Great Britain in February this year while India will again strive in the Asia / Oceania Group I in 2018 to get to the play-offs stage.

Indian team captain Mahesh Bhupathi rued the missed chances on all the three days.

“We did not take our chances. We had few on all the days including today when Ramkumar had four set points in the second to even the match,” Bhupathi told PTI.

Talking about the positives from the tie, he said, “We worked and fought hard and we are very close to making the world group. Next year this time, I expect both Yuki and Ramkumar to be in top 100.”

In a nervous start, Ramkumar lost 11 straight points but gradually the serve and volley strategy helped him negate Shapovalov’s fiery ground strokes.

The Chennai youngster took some time to settle but by the time he controlled the butterflies in his stomach, Shapovalov had gone up 4-1 with a break of serve in the opening set.

It was one-way traffic till the eighth game as the Canadian left-hander lost only three points till he came out to serve out the opening set.

Ramkumar tried to serve and volley but Shapovalov was quick with his returns, hardly giving time to the Indian to charge the net finish the points.

Ramkumar did pose a few question in the ninth game with some sharp returns, earning two breakpoints, but Shapovalov used his big serve to save both and served it out with an ace.

The Indian grew in confidence and put up a much better fight in the second set as he served two games at love. The chip and charge strategy paid good dividends as he led 5-4.

However, the good work came to a naught as he could not convert any of the four set points he earned in the 12th game and eventually lost the tie-breaker with his fifth double fault of the match.

Despite being put under pressure, Shapovalov won 13 of the last 15 points of the second set. That was the difference between the two players. While Ramkumar could take none of the six break chances he got, Shapovalov lifted himself from tricky situations easily.

Shapovalov broke the Indian at love in the sixth game to open up a 4-2 lead and clinched the tie in the ninth game on an unforced error from Ramkumar.

 

ON Saturday, Rohan Bopanna and Purav Raja lost the crucial doubles rubber to hand Canada a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup Play-off tie.

Bopanna and Raja lost 5-7 5-7 7-5 3-6 to seasoned Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in two hours and 52 minutes.

Pospisil, 27, was the youngest on the court and the only one who plays the singles as well on the Tour. He made a huge difference to the outcome with his returns from near the baseline and perfect placements at the net.

Pospisil, not nominated for the singles by his captain, troubled both the Indians consistently and carried the home team on his shoulders as 45-year-old Nestor came under pressure several times.

Raja, who has made good progress on the circuit along with Divij Sharan, was superb at the net with his deft volley winners but limitations with his serve and baseline strokes hurt India badly.

Drafted into the side in the last minute, Raja dropped his serve five times in the match — twice while serving under pressure at 5-6 in the first two sets.

Bopanna’s big serving game was also missing today as he served five double faults in team’s total of 12. His single- handed backhand winners were nowhere to be seen.

Bopanna though managed to hold serve under pressure, even when faced with a match point in the 10th game of the third set. Neither he got good support from Raja nor he could lift the game of his partner.

“We played well enough to put ourselves in a position to control the match but we didn’t capitalise. At this level when you are playing two Wimbledon champions, if you don’t take your chances you don’t deserve to win,” Indian team captain Mahesh Bhupathi told PTI after the match.

Bupathi also admitted that Bopanna was not at his best in the match.

“Bops fought hard. It wasn’t the best match I have seen him play but he found a way to hang in there which was the key.”

Bhupathi said the key for Ramkumar would be “serve and volley”.

At 5-5 on Bopanna’s serve, Pospisil first sent a crushing return which the Indian could not pick and then hammered a service return winner to put Indians down 15-30. Confusion between the Indians over who would go for the shot gave the Canadians their first set point but Bopanna held.

It went with serve till Raja came out to serve to stay in the set and immediately went down 0-40 in the 12th game. Under pressure, he served a double fault to gift the rivals the opening set.

The second set began with a rare four straight breaks of serve before Pospisil held in the fifth. In between, there was huge drama in the second game when Raja, standing very close to the net, was found guilty of playing the ball before it crossed the net and the chair umpire gave the point to the Canadians.

A furious Bhupathi argued with the umpire along with Bopanna but the umpire did not budge and the referee asked the players to continue the game and it ended up with Bopanna losing the serve.

There was chance for the Indians to get another break on Nestor’s serve but could not utilise any of the three chances in the seventh game.

Raja yet again came out to serve at 5-6 and again dropped serve to hand the Canadians a two-set lead. It was Pospisil again who hurt the Indian team with his returns. After saving three set points, Raja failed to pick up a half volley on a ferocious Pospisil return.

The third set was on even keel at 3-3 when Nestor dropped serve to hand India a lead. It was Bopanna’s return winner which gave the Indians a breakpoint which was converted as the left-hander served a double fault.

However, the Indians could not consolidate the lead with Raja yet again dropping serve with a double fault at 30-40.

India stared at defeat in the 10th on Bopanna’s serve but the tall Coorgi came up with good serves after that and held with an ace.

In a sudden change of momentum, Nestor found himself down 0-40 in the next game and lost serve to allow Raja serve out the third set in the 12th.

The Canadians regrouped quickly, broke Raja in the fourth and pulled away with a comfortable 4-1 lead. Pospisil sealed the match for his side when Bopanna’s awkwardly-picked return from close to body went wide.

 

ON Friday, Ramanathan fetched the crucial win but Bhambri made the day memorable even in defeat as India and Canada shared the honours on day one of the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie.

Yuki turned the match on its head after being down by two sets and a match point in the third set but eventually lost 6-7(2) 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 1-6 to world No.51 Shapovalov — an audacious performance in a three hours and 52 minutes battle.

It happened after 22-year-old Ramkumar, ranked 154th, tamed debutant Schnur 5-7 7-6(4) 7-5 7-5 in the first singles, which was also a marathon match lasting three hours and 16 minutes.

“Boys played with a lot of heart…the plan was to fight regardless of the score and Ram swung a losing battle and Yuki almost did too,” Indian captain Mahesh Bhupathi told PTI.

“The pressure remains on them. If we fight like this anything is possible.”

This defeat would rankle Yuki for sometime as Shapovalov had started feeling the heat following the Indian’s perseverance.

The left-handed Shapovalov unleashed his power-packed game from the beginning and Yuki was mostly left to defend but after taking the third set from the home favourite, it was the Indian who dictated the terms.

An early break in the fifth set again shifted the momentum in Shapovalov’s favour. The Canadian found his mojo after breaking Yuki in the third and broke him again in the sixth game to take a 5-1 cushion and clinched the issue with a crushing forehand winner.

Yuki proved that his recent win over world number 22 Gael Monfils was no fluke and he give a good fight to the world’s top players.

The 18-year-old Shapovalov, who recently beat the likes of Rafael Nadal, Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro, was playing his first ever five-set match and all credit to Yuki for making his life tough.

The Delhi youngster played with a lot of maturity and showed he has toughened up mentally as he hardly showed nerves despite trailing by two sets.

The games were short as the two players served even, it was Yuki who had to work harder for the points.

Playing smartly, Yuki made his serve to jump from the court by employing more of his shoulder to create extra bounce and it helped him hold serve throughout the match.

Yuki also changed his tactics intelligently in the match, trying to restrict Shapovalov’s fierce forehand by feeding him more on the backhand but still the Canadian created some breathtaking service return winners.

After pocketing the opening set, Shapovalov shifted gears without fuss in the second set tie-breaker as he raced to a commanding 5-1 lead and sealed a 2-0 lead courtesy a barrage of winners that rained through his forehand.

The missile-like serves and equally fearsome returns continued to lash Yuki.

The Indian was broken in the first game of the must-win third set but broke immediately when Shapovalov double faulted at deuce and sent a forehand long. It was Yuki’s first break of the match as he tried to make a fight out of it.

The Indian also targeted a few winners down the line on both the flanks by moving Shapovalov on the court. The battle grew in intensity and Yuki was eating into Shapovalov’s energy with his dogged approach.

After another trade of break the set was stretched to a tie-breaker in which Yuki saved a match point at 5-6 and eventually kept himself alive by winning it.

As the match grew, Shapovalov started to feel the nerves as Yuki started to return much better, growing in confidence.

The Indian broke early in the fourth set and forced a decider but unforced errors at crucial juncture pulled him down.

Earlier, a dogged Ramanathan battled past a fighting Schnur to remain unbeaten in the Davis Cup in the 2017 season, having won all five matches he has played.

A powerful serve was the most potent weapon for Ramkumar but lack of pace in his strokes often made him vulnerable, of which Schnur took advantage many a times in the contest.

Ramkumar wriggled out of crunch situations with his gritty serving and saved as many as 15 of the 18 breakpoints which indeed titled the energy-sapping match in his favour.

More often than not, the Indian served wide and deep to the left of the Schnur, making the returns difficult, which helped him open the court for easy winners.

Schnur, on the other hand, packed a lot of power in his ground strokes and was very impressive with his swift movement and court coverage.

But the 202-ranked Canadian was hit by a crisis of confidence when Ramkumar won the second set and pulled away with the third. Schnur looked down and out, trailing by two sets to one, and down by a break in the fourth set but found energy to fight when Ramkumar dropped serve immediately.

The fourth set was littered with breaks but eventually Ramkumar sealed the match with a backhand winner, again well set up with a quality service.

Schnur, to his credit fought well even in fourth set but Ramkumar’s experience helped him clinch the issue.