A clean-sweep could not come through but India stamped their authority over Uzbekistan by winning the Davis Cup tie 4-1 to advance to the World Group Play-offs.
India’s place in the World Group Play-offs, to be held in September, was secured once a 3-0 lead was grabbed on Saturday in the Asia/Oceania Group I second round tie. The team was eyeing a whitewash but fell short in the second reverse singles’ match.
Ramkumar Ramnathan continued India’s domination of the home tie by outclassing Sanjar Fayziev 6-3 6-2 in just 67 minutes in the first reverse singles at the KSLTA stadium.
Left-handed Prajnesh Gunneswaran, though, had a hard battle at hand against the big-serving 406th ranked Ismailov. Ismailov negotiated the conditions much better than Fayziev and emerged a deserving 7-5 6-3 winner in the second reverse singles.
Both the players served big but debutant Prajnesh buckled under pressure in crucial moments and that made a difference to the outcome of the match.
Ismailov’s victory meant that India could not force a whitewash. The last time India enjoyed a clean-sweep was in February 2014 when they hammered Chinese Taipei in Indore.
However, it was a brilliant start for new captain Mahesh Bhupathi, who has introduced a few rules for the players and has his own style of carrying out business.
Fayziev struggled to adjust to the bounce and speed of the court while Ramkumar turned it into his advantage. He consistently sent down bouncy serves, enticing errors from his opponent.
In his first service game, Fayziev was down 0-40 and was broken when he smashed an overhead volley long and wide on the second breakpoint.
Ramkumar quickly ran away with a 3-0 lead with an easy hold and could have been 4-0 up when Fayziev committed three consecutive double faults but the Uzbek managed to hold.
A backhand passing winner handed Ramkumar a breakpoint in the sixth game but the Uzbek served well to save that.
The Indian also approached the net better in the opening set, easily putting away Fayziev’s feeble returns from the baseline. He served out the set in the ninth game.
After squandering two break chances in the opening game of the second set, Ramkumar earned a third with a brilliant lob and converted when Fayziev fluffed a volley.
Fayziev served better in the following games and returned well but Ramkumar still managed to get another break in the seventh game to open up a 5-2 lead and served out the match in the next game.
“I played clever today. The tie was sealed so I focused on a few things. I did not want to commit a lot of double faults, I wanted to return better. I played smart and all the effort paid off,” Ramkumar said after his match.
“I will take this confidence into the upcoming tournaments (on the Tour),” said the 22-year-old.
In the final match of the tie, both Prajnesh and Ismailov served extremely well and it was on serve before Prajnesh made three unusual forehand errors that put him down by three breakpoints in the 12th game.
A nervous Prajnesh saved the first chance but sent a forehand long on the second to hand Ismailov the set.
Again it was Prajnesh who blinked first, dropping serve in the second game of the second set, allowing the Uzbek to open up a 3-0 lead.
That lead stayed with the Uzbek and he served out the match in the ninth game even as Prajnesh saved two match points, including one on his own serve in the eighth game.
“I gave my best to give one victory to my team. In the first match I was nervous. Conditions here are hot. We play less than 20 degrees here it is 30 plus. He played good tennis, it was difficult to receive but I found a way,” Ismailov said after his win.