Chandigarh: Not used to playing singles anymore, India's Rohan Bopanna found rhythm in nick of time to edge past Hong Chung before Yong-Kyu Lim prevented a Korean whitewash with a gritty win over Ramkumar Ramanathan in the Davis Cup Asia\Oceania Group I tie in Chandigarh on 17 July.
Asked to take court in place of Saketh Myneni, who is still recovering from his gruelling match on Friday, Bopanna laboured to a 3-6 6-4 6-4 win against Chung, who is ranked as low as 655 in the ATP rankings.
Bopanna last played a singles match in the Davis Cup in 2012 when he won the dead fifth rubber against Uzbekistan’s Sarvar Ikramov.
It was a 10th singles win for Bopanna in Davis Cup on 17 July and thankfully it was a dead rubber since India had sealed the tie on Saturday itself by winning the doubles.
Playing the dead fifth rubber, 217-ranked Ramkumar lost the close contest 3-6 6-4 6-7(2) in little over two hours to Lim, who is placed 409 rungs below the Indian.
Despite losing the tie 1-4 , the Koreans have to be credited for making life tough for the Indians. They were playing on an alien surface but fought their hearts out in the tie.
All Indian players performed a popular Bollywood number ‘Bayee Wah’, immediately after Lim closed the tie, much to the surprise and delight of the fans.
India will now make its third attempt to qualify for the elite 16-nation World Group. They await the results of the World Group matches to know the rival in the play-offs to be held in September.
India last played in World Group in 2011 when it lost in the first round against Serbia. After that, they have lost play-offs twice – against Serbia (in 2014, Bangalore) and Czech Republic (in 2015, New Delhi).
Army man Lim, who lost to Myneni, recovered remarkably from the spasm he suffered on Friday, and played clean tennis to beat Ramkumar.
Lim broke Ramkumar in the fourth game and served out the opening set in the ninth game in which he also saved a break chance after the Indian had saved three set points.
In the second set, Lim again had a chance to go up but the Indian saved a break chance in the seventh game to hold. The 21-year-old lad from Chennai kept fighting and finally broke Lim in the 12th to make it one-all.
Ramkumar grew in confidence and started to play much better. He broke Lim in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead but was broken while serving for the match in the ninth as he served a double fault.
That proved costly as Lim stretched it to tie-breaker in which he prevailed.
Earlier, lack of singles match practice was evident in Bopanna’s match as he heavily relied on his booming serve but Chung refused to be intimidated and posed a good challenge before the Indian.
Bopanna peppered Chung with aces, firing 27 in all in the one-hour 23-minute match. It was his big serve that rescued him as he struggled with precision in his ground strokes as he was covering the entire court in a match after a long time.
Bopanna initially lost all points on his serve on double faults. His fifth double fault, followed by a backhand into the net meant that the Korean had the chance to draw first blood. The crafty left-hander sent down a forehand winner to take the offer, much to the shock of the Indian camp and home fans.
Bopanna again failed to put across a volley that crashed on to the net to hand Chung his first set point. Under pressure, Bopanna made a forehand error and the Koreans had smiles on their faces.
The Indian, struggling with his ground strokes, was broken early in the second set that put Chung ahead 3-0. However, a break in the seventh game brought Bopanna back in the match.
Chung sent a forehand to net to be down 30-40 but managed to save two breakpoints. Bopanna smashed a crosscourt backhand winner to earn his third chance and converted it with a forehand volley winner.
At 4-4, he again broke Chung in the ninth game and served out the set in the next game.
The tall Indian had a chance to go up early in the third set as he had Chung down at 0-40 but could convert none of the three chances.
Chung took a medical timeout to treat his left shoulder after the third game in the final set. Bopanna broke him in the fifth game and retained the lead to serve out the match with an ace.