Setting aside his injury blues Rohan Bopanna gave India a perfect kick-start, to seal the World group play-off berth, against formidable Japan on the opening day of the Asia-Oceania group ‘I’ Davis Cup tie at the R.K. Khanna Stadium here on Friday.
The start culminated into a strong finish as another rising star Prakash Amritraj closed the day with strong statement over his Asian counterpart. Both Bopanna and Prakash toughened themselves and rose to the occasion to give India a firm 2-0 lead.
The young blood of India boiled to the hilt under scorching capital heat as both of them pulled off a gruelling five setters in their respective matches.
Rohan Bopanna gave India a soothing start as he overcame the stiff challenge of Japanese teenage sensation Kei Nishikori in a five-setter. Bopanna had to toil for more than two hours to register a hard fought 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win in the first singles match.
Bopanna was made to sweat by 18-year-old Japanese Nishikori. The Indian stuck to his trademark approach of charging into the net now and then while debutant Nishikori preferred to stay at the baseline.
Once again the lanky Bopanna relied on his booming serves as he committed many unforced errors. His domination with the serve was quite evident from the fact that he fashioned 22 aces compared to his opponent's eight. Bopanna bailed himself out of trouble time and again during the match with his ace trumps.
Bopanna had to fight it out right from the start as the very first set decided in the tie-break with a 7-6 scoreline. But the young Japanese was in no mood to give up so easily as he bounced back strongly to level the terms 6-3 in just 22 minutes.
Bopanna again took the lead as he broke Nishikori twice in the third set. First Bopanna overpowered him in the second and then in the 10th game while the Japanese could only be able to break once with Bopanna sealing the set 6-4 in just over half an hour time.
At that stage it was appearing as if Bopanna would seal the tie in his favour in the fourth set but Nishikori had some thing different in store. The young Japanese got his act together during the break and ran though the fourth set 6-2, breaking Bopanna twice to take the match into the decider.
In the decider both the players played their heart out as they were going for everything. No one was in any mood to concede an inch. Both of them exchanged serves till the seventh game before Bopanna got a decisive break, Bopanna then made no mistake to pocket the game and further the set and match.
In the day’s second singles, Prakash was up against Go Soeda. The contest also turned out into an intriguing encounter as it lasted for just over four hours. The perseverance exhibited by Prakash really paid him the rich dividends as he provided India a concrete 2-0 lead at the end of the day.
Prakash served with a big heart at the crunch time bailing himself out of big trouble when he was down two match-points to register an memorable 4-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 8-6 victory over Go Soeda in a absorbing five setter.