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Somdev Devvarman does it for India
Kaohsiung (Chinese Taipei): Somdev Devvarman trounced World No. 59 Lu Yen-Hsun 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 to script India’s 3-2 win over Chinese Taipei and help the team advance to the third and final round of the Davis Cup Asia/ Oceania Zone Group I tennis tournament, here on Sunday.

Starting as underdog, Devvarman capitalised on Lu’s umpteen unforced errors to win the first reverse singles match and ensure victory for India. In the second reverse singles match, which was a dead rubber, Rohan Bopanna lost 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-7(5) to Tsung-Hua Yang at the Yang-Ming Tennis Centre.

Contrary to expectations that it would boil down to the fifth rubber, Devvarman pulled off a brilliant victory against Lu, who has beaten the likes of David Nalbandian and former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt this season, to seal the tie for India.

To meet Australia

India will now play Australia which beat Taiwan 3-2 in their second round on Sunday. The winner of this tie, to be held in India, will go into the World Group play-offs.

It has been more than a decade since India played in the World Group. The last time it figured in the elite group was in 1998. India had lost 1-4 to Romania in the play-offs last year to get back to the Asia/ Oceania Group I.

India began the day with a 2-1 lead, which it got on Saturday when Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won the doubles rubber against Yang and Chu-Huan Yi.

Devvarman had also won the first singles on the opening day on Friday, defeating Ti Chen, but Bopanna had lost the second singles to Lu.

Too many errors

On Sunday, Lu, who started as the favourite, let himself down with unending unforced errors as he allowed Devvarman to escape from precarious situations.

The Taipei player set up the points beautifully, mostly by pinning Devvarman to the baseline, but the winners deserted him, making the job easy for the Indian.

To Devvarman’s credit, he kept hitting the ball and engaged Lu in long rallies, compelling him to commit mistakes. It was an intense battle from the start with long rallies on display and the Indian got the first chance of a break.

Lu saved the first two break points in the fourth game, but Devvarman kept himself in the game and hit a stunning double-handed backhand winner to break Lu, creating a 3-1 lead.

A series of unforced errors by Lu proved costly for him in the sixth game as he handed Devvarman a double break and a cushion of a 5-1 lead. The Indian served out the set in the next game to go one set up, leaving the home fans and the rival camp a dejected lot.

Early threat

Devvarman played his heart out to ward off an early threat in the second set as he saved two break points in the second game and held the serve after playing out five deuces.

Mistakes at crucial points by Lu continued to give Devvarman the advantage and the Indian cashed in on those to get breaks in the fifth and seventh games to go up 5-2 and then served out the second set comfortably.

The third set was no different as unforced errors continued and Lu was broken in the very first game. Devvarman also sprayed some errors later on as he double-faulted to drop his serve in the second game and squandered five break points in the third game.

However, Devvarman capitalised on the second break point in the fifth game to take the lead yet again and saved three on his own serve in the next to make it 4-2.

Lu saved one break point in the seventh game to hold on, but that was just delaying the inevitable as he double-faulted in the ninth game to hand the match to Devvarman.

Late challenge

In the fifth rubber, Bopanna went down fighting to Yang, who defied a late challenge from the Indian to get a consolation win for his team.

After losing the first set, Bopanna squandered as many as nine set points including four in the tie-breaker before converting the 10th to draw level.

The furiously fought third set was decided by the tie-breaker which Bopanna lost despite enjoying a 4-1 lead at one stage. — PTI

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