Czech Republic’s Davis Cup squad arrived in Delhi for their world group play-off tie against India. They began well in taking the first singles, in which Lukas Rosol defeated India’s Yuki Bhambri in straight sets. But Somdev Devvarman leveled things up for India by overpowering world no.40 Jiri Vesely also in straight sets. Now Saturday’s doubles rubber holds the key, in which Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna will take on Adam Pavlasek and Radek Stepanek. India have been labeled as the underdogs and the only thing going in their favor; is the home support. In other play-off matches in different venues around the world, Switzerland, powered by Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka took a vital 2-0 lead over the Netherlands at Geneva; Italy and Russia ended the first day at 1-1; USA and Uzbekistan finished at 1-1; Colombia/Japan, Dominican Republic/Germany and Poland/Slovakia also ended the first day at 1-1.
Against the favorites Czech Republic, Indians were considered to play a second fiddle. That status was confirmed, when Yuki Bhambri lost his opening singles rubber against Lukas Rosol, who thrashed the 23-year old Indian 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 in under two hours. The Czech served pretty well and kept Bhambri under pressure at all times with his service speeds hovering around 200 kmh at most times. Rosol sent down 11 aces in the match to none by Bhambri, who also went on committing avoidable unforced errors. After taking the first set in 24 minutes, Rosol raced away to a 4-0 lead in the second. He broke Bhambri once more to win the second set as well. The Indian had a chance to pull one back in the third set, when he could apply some pressure on the Czech and broke Rosol for the only time in the match. But Bhambri dropped his serve in the following game and allowed Rosol to take the match 6-2, 6-1, 7-5.
In the next singles match, Somdev Devvarman fought tenaciously against world no.40 Jiri Vesely and nullified Czech Republic’s early advantage. Before his match against Vesely, Somdev had never lost at Delhi’s DLTA court and he maintained that position. This match was in total contrast to the earlier played match as the first set went on endlessly as baseline slugfest with no player wanting to yield an inch. Somdev earned four break opportunities and Vesely three in the first three games alone. But neither player could convert any of those chances. Somdev served 11 aces in the first set by finding perfect angles and Vesely couldn’t reach the ball. After he took the first set on tiebreak, Somdev lost his serve in the first game of the second set. After four service hold by the two players, Somdev got the break back in the sixth game. Three consecutive aces in the seventh game meant Somdev led 4-3 and finally clinched the set 6-4. Somdev raced to 3-1 lead in the third and by that time Vesely lost mentally as the Indian continued with his fine form and finished the match 7-6, 6-4, 6-3. On Saturday, the seasoned Indians Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna will take on Radek Stepanek and Adam Pavlasek in the doubles rubber that is the crunch game of this Davis Cup tie.
In Geneva, Swiss stars Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka extracted a 2-0 lead for Switzerland against Netherlands by winning the opening day singles matches. While Federer didn’t have work too hard in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over J Huta Galung, Wawrinka had to play five sets before beating T De Bakker 2-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. With Federer and Wawrinka playing doubles on Saturday and also featuring in the reverse singles on Sunday, Switzerland is literally guaranteed to enter the next stage. In other world group play off matches, the first day spoils were equally shared by Italy & Russia at Irkutsk, Russia; Uzbekistan & USA at Tashkent; Colombia & Japan at Pereira, Colombia; Dominican Republic & Germany at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Poland & Slovakia at Gdynia, Poland. In the last tie between Brazil and Croatia, only one singles match could be played at Florianopolis, Brazil, where Thomaz Bellucci defeated M Delic in four sets to put Brazil 1-0 ahead.