Bopanna-Raja defeat puts India down 1-2 against Canada

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Edmonton: India’s World Group hopes suffered a huge setback as Rohan Bopanna and Purav Raja lost the crucial doubles rubber to hand Canada a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup Play-off tie, here Saturday.

Bopanna and Raja lost 5-7 5-7 7-5 3-6 to seasoned Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in two hours and 52 minutes to leave India with the difficult task of winning both the reverse singles to qualify for the elite 16-nation World Group.

Pospisil, 27, was the youngest on the court and the only one who plays the singles as well on the Tour. He made a huge difference to the outcome with his returns from near the baseline and perfect placements at the net.

Pospisil, not nominated for the singles by his captain, troubled both the Indians consistently and carried the home team on his shoulders as 45-year-old Nestor came under pressure several times.

Raja, who has made good progress on the circuit along with Divij Sharan, was superb at the net with his deft volley winners but limitations with his serve and baseline strokes hurt India badly.

Drafted into the side in the last minute, Raja dropped his serve five times in the match — twice while serving under pressure at 5-6 in the first two sets.

Bopanna’s big serving game was also missing today as he served five double faults in team’s total of 12. His single- handed backhand winners were nowhere to be seen.

Bopanna though managed to hold serve under pressure, even when faced with a match point in the 10th game of the third set. Neither he got good support from Raja nor he could lift the game of his partner.

“We played well enough to put ourselves in a position to control the match but we didn’t capitalise. At this level when you are playing two Wimbledon champions, if you don’t take your chances you don’t deserve to win,” Indian team captain Mahesh Bhupathi told PTI after the match.

Nestor won the Wimbledon in 2008 and 2009 with Serbia’s Nenand Zimonjic while Pospisil had won the grass court Grand Slam in 2014 with Briton Jack Sock.

Bupathi also admitted that Bopanna was not at his best in the match.

“Bops fought hard. It wasn’t the best match I have seen him play but he found a way to hang in there which was the key.”

Ramkumar Ramanathan, who gave India a point on the opening day, will take on world number 51 Denis Shapovalov on Sunday before Yuki Bhambri locks horns with Brayden Schnur.

If Ramkumar manages to pull off a win Shapovalov, it won’t be a surprise to see Canada fielding Pospisil instead of Schnur, ranked 202.

Bhupathi said the key for Ramkumar would be “serve and volley”.

At 5-5 on Bopanna’s serve, Pospisil first sent a crushing return which the Indian could not pick and then hammered a service return winner to put Indians down 15-30. A confusion between the Indians over who will go for the shot gave the Canadians their first set point but Bopanna held.

It went with serve till Raja came out to serve to stay in the set and immediately went down 0-40 in the 12th game. Under pressure, he served a double fault to gift the rivals the opening set.

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