Tennis

Bopanna-Sharan pair clinch thriller, seal tie against Denmark

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Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan saved three match points to clinch a thriller against Danish pair of Frederik Nielsen and Mikael Torpegaard as India kept their place in the Davis Cup World Group I by taking an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Play-off tie on Saturday .

Sharan, playing his first Davis Cup tie since February 2019, and Bopanna came from behind to win 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (4) in one hour and 58 minutes.

The tense win ensured that India will stay in World Group I for the 2022 season while Denmark will now again go back to World Group II.

Serving to stay in the match in the 12th game of the decider, Sharan faced three match points but the Indian team held nerves to save all, two of them on second serves, to force a final tie-breaker, in which they raced to a 4-1 lead and got the win.

This is India’s first win since they beat Pakistan 4-0 in November 2019 when Rohit Rajpal took over as non-playing captain. After that India lost to Finland (1-3) and Croatia (1-3) in away ties. The reverse singles have been rendered inconsequential now.

Bopanna’s big serve was at work since the beginning as he started off with three consecutive aces for an easy hold. Torpegaard and Nielsen were also sharp and solid even as Sharan’s serve was put under pressure.

In both the third and seventh games that Sharan served, he was down 15-30 but somehow managed to hold. Nielsen’s serves and precise placings combined with Torpegaard’s firepower made it a tough contest for the home pair. Nielsen did not lose a single point on his serve in the entire opening set and that made a huge difference.

There was no break of serve in the opening set and a tie-breaker was required. Bopanna lost the first point on his serve and the Danish team opened up a huge 5-1 lead from where Torpegaard found a volley winner on Sharan’s return to earn five set points. Bopanna managed to save two with his booming serves but Torpeggard fired a body serve on Bopanna to take the opening set.

Ironically, it was Nielsen who blinked in the second set, dropping his serve in the opening game. At 15-30, he could not return a shot from Bopanna to be down by two break chances. He saved the first goal double-faulted on the second to hand the Indians an advantage. That break stayed with the Indians and Sharan served out the set in the 10th to force a decider.

The Indian team had three break chances against Torpegaard in the fifth game but fluffed all. The Danish team showed nerves of steel to hold that crucial game after going down 0-40. Credit to Torpegaard to pull off those big serves under pressure.

Bopanna came out to serve to stay in the match in the 10th game and was under pressure when Torpegaard found a backhand winner to make it 30-all but the Indian held to stay afloat after one deuce point.

Edge of the seat action followed in the 12th game when the Indian team saved three match points. In tie-breaker, Nielsen double faulted at 1-2 and then made a backhand overhead volley error to give India a handsome 4-1 lead which proved enough for India to win the match.

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