Somdev puts India one-up in Davis Cup World Group play-off

Friday, September 18, 2009

JOHANNESBURG - India’s No. 1 Somdev Devvarman lived up to expectations, overpowering South Africa’s second singles player Izak van der Merwe 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-4 in the first rubber of the Davis Cup World Group tennis play-off at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena here Friday.

The 133rd-ranked Somdev was favoured to win the match, having earlier beaten the 290th-ranked van der Merwe in straight sets at the Aptos challenger quarters in July. The Indian took two hours and 13 minutes to close out the match.

Rohan Bopanna, India’s second singles player will now play South Africa’s top player Rik de Voest, in the second singles.

Somdev, the hero of India’s away win against Chinese Taipei in Februaury, was given a stiff fight in the first set by Van der Merwe, whose impeccable volleying neutralised the powerful backcourt play of the Indian.

But the Indian shifted gears in the next two sets, complementing his groundstrokes with some strategic net play. As the South African lapsed into errors, Somdev came up with spectacular backhand hitting to make the set one-sided.

However, that was not the case in the first set. The two players served big and barring facing break points in two successive games, Somdev in the eighth and van der Merwe in the the ninth, neither had difficulty holding.

The set entered a tie-break where Somdev cruised to a 5-2 lead and when van der Merwe double faulted at 6-5, India was 1-0 up.

Somdev was in control in the second set, stroking freely and passing the South African easily. He broke the South African in the sixth game with a backhand pass after fighting off four deuces. The Indian then held his serve at love to consolidate a 5-2 lead.

Though the van der Merwe managed to stave off two break points in the eighth game, he could do little to stop Somdev from serving out the set at love and giving India a 2-0 lead.

In the decider, the South African ran out of fizz and struggled to hold serve in the first game itself as he had to save two break points. But that proved to be a temporary relief, as Somdev soon broke him at love in the fifth game. After that the Indian had to only hold his serve which he did without any alarms.

Somdev said he was happy to give India a winning start.

“It’s all about preparation and giving your best shot in the match. I am happy to

make a winning start for India,” Somdev, a two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) said.

“Van der merwe can be a dangerous player if you give him confidence. It was huge for me to get on top of the tie-breaker and then keep up the pressure.”

Somdev, said after a close a first set, he had to shift gears to comfortably coast home.

“I was on target in the first set and not good enough in second and third sets. I was aggressive late into the match, but I could not break his serve. I think that was the key.”

–Indo-Asian News Service.

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