New Delhi, Apr 11: Rohan Bopanna overcame age, ranking and tendonitis to ace out debutant Kei Nishikori in a marathon five-setter to give India a crucial 1-0 lead over Japan in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Zonal 2nd round at the RK Khanna tennis stadium here today.
In a match which lasted 118 minutes, the 325 ranked Bopanna, playing his 15th Davis Cup tie, survived several anxious moments to put it across 118 ranked teenager Nishikori 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to live upto his pre match promise of giving his side the lead. The 18-year old Nishikori playing his first senior level match on grass put up a tremendous display and at one stage looked walking away with the match but his opponent showed nerves of steel when required to dash young Japanese hope of winning maiden Davis cup tie.
The 28-year-old Bopanna, suffering from tendonitis, showed no sign of pain or injury as he served out against his younger opponent by firing 23 aces. He committed eight double faults.
Nishikori came up with 8 aces and two double faults.
The Indian used his main weapon, his powerful serve with deadly effect and when ever he was in tight situation and also playing on the grass helped him a lot.
Nishikori's experience on grass has been minimal. He played on it at the Junior Wimbledon Championship but since he is based in the US he had not much practice on the grass.
However, Nishikori, who hogged the limelight when he beat world number 8 James Blake to win the Miami ATP title in February gave glimpses of his brilliance with some stunning crosscourt shots and volleys.
He displayed amazing cool temperament but it was not his day.
as he twice failed to convert chances that came his way in the first set.
The first set went on the serve,though in the 5th game Nishokori had two break points and then in the 9th game he had one break point, and in the tie breaker Rohan outlasted him 7-2 to go up 1-0 in 42 minutes.
It was a total reversal of fortune in the second set with Rohan suddenly looking off-colour and letting his rival run away with the set in 21 minutes. The Japanese top player won this set 6-3 to draw parity as the Indian dropped his second serve, committing a double fault after trailing 15-40.
The over six feet gangling Coorgi came back with a vengeance in the 3rd set as he broke Nishikori's in the second game but then failed to hold on to his serve in the 7th game.
However the Indian, backed by a partisan crowd and prompted by experienced skipper Leander Paes, steadied himself to break his rival in the tenth game to win the set 6-4 in 31 minutes to go up 2-1.
But Rohan's form again slumped in the fourth set as he committed several unforced errors while his rival pumped himself up with some dazzling shots and returns.
The Indian seemed to have lost focused and nothing went right for him in this set which he virtually gave away without putting up a fight in 23 minute (2-6).
However much to the amazement of the crowd, Rohan put up the best display of the match in the fifth set. He did not show any sign of wear and tear and the hot and humid conditions seemed to have no effect on him.
His serve in this set was lethal, powerful and accurate and Nishikori suddenly found himself in all sorts of trouble.
Rohan played with a plan,he rushed to the net when needed and never allowed a long rally. His placement and volleys left his rival stranded and his fierce service left Nishikori gasping for breath.
The Indian broke Nishikori in the eighth game to wrap up the set (6-3) in 28 minutes and the match.