BENGALURU, April 7: Ramkumar Ramanathan overcame a spirited challenge from Temur Ismailov to hand India a 1-0 lead against Uzbekistan in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie here today.
Ranked 267, Ramkumar eked out a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 win over the Uzbek, who is ranked 406, in the opening singles rubber of the second round tie.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran, ranked 287, makes his India debut against Sanjar Fayziev (376).
To his credit, Ismailov made life difficult for the Indian despite suffering cramps in his right hamstring.
Ramkumar dominated the proceedings before a bout of double faults handed Ismailov a small opening, which the Uzbek grabbed with both hands to make a match of it.
The Indian sealed the opening set in a jiffy and was leading 4-3 in the second when he saw himself down 0-40. He saved two breakpoints but netted a backhand on the third to allow Ismailov stay alive and fight.
The Uzbek played freely while Ramkumar put himself under pressure to finish the job quickly. The nerves got to Ramkumar and, in utter desperation, he squandered four set points and was eventually broken in the 12th game.
The Uzbek had snatched the momentum but suffered cramps in his right leg in the third set, making the job of the Indian easy. Ramkumar ran away with the third set as Ismailov�s restricted movements gave him easy points.
Ismailov, though, recovered remarkably after a medical timeout and was battle ready for the fourth set. Ramkumar was always catching up with the Uzbek, holding his serves without fuss, and soon it was 5-5.
Two unforced errors by Ismailov gave Ramkumar three break chances. He converted the third when Ismailov buried a return to the net.
Ramkumar�s unforced errors continued as twice he sent down double faults on match points. He though sealed the match with a forehand volley winner.
The winner of the tie will qualify for the World Group play-offs, to be played in September. � PTI