Chandigarh, July 15: Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan endured challenging conditions to wear down their spirited rivals as India took a comfortable 2-0 lead on the opening day of the Asia-Oceania group I Davis Cup tie against South Korea here today (July 15).
It seemed bizarre but both Ramkumar and Myneni saw their opponents conceding when the Indians were serving for their respective matches.
The 21-year-old Ramkumar, ranked 217, put the hosts ahead in his Davis Cup debut when Seong Chan Hong conceded the first singles due to cramps in his right thigh as the Indian was serving for the match.
After battling hard for two hours and 36 minutes, Ramkumar was leading 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-5 (15-15) when Hong suddenly clenched his right thigh and grimaced in pain, bringing about a sudden end to the match at the Chandigarh Club. Since the rain has been lashing the city for the past few days, it made the grass soggy.
The surface was dry but it turned out to be a dead court where the ball hardly rose to the knee height. However, the surface improved when Myneni played as the ball was bouncing a lot better. The onus to bring Korea back was on the most experienced player of the side, Yong-Kyu Lim, but Myneni dashed their hopes with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 5-2 win to set India up nicely.
Lim conceded the match when Myneni was 15-15 and serving for the match in the eighth game. It was after the two players fought tooth and nail for three hours and nine minutes. The 28-year-old Myneni, who played his first ever five-setter, threw his jersey and punched the air, to celebrate his victory.
His teammates lifted him on the shoulders, acknowledging the grit showed in a tough contest. The second singles was littered with medical timeouts and a long toilet break as both players started to struggle with cramps from the fourth set onwards.
Myneni, who has a high sweat rate, was fighting a battle with himself too as he struggled to stand but endured the torrid time to come out triumphant. The hot and humid conditions tested fitness of the players even as the Koreans negotiated the grass courts, on which they hardly play, quite well.
They had done their homework and made life tough for both Ramkumar and Myneni. Surprisingly, it was the Koreans who approached the net more than the Indians, who are far more accustomed to playing on grass.
They had played a lot on the grass in the run-up to the Wimbledon. Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes will look to wrap up the tie when they face Hong Chung and Yunseong Chung tomorrow (July 16).