Somdev-Bopanna go down fighting

Novi Sad (Serbia): India badly missed Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhuapthi as Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman lost the crucial doubles rubber to hand a 2-1 lead to top seeds and defending champions Serbia in the Davis Cup World Group first round tie, here on Saturday.

Somdev-Bopanna combo lost 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-7 (10-12) to Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac in the third rubber which had a pulsating climax after three hours and 10 minutes of engrossing tennis at Spens Sports Centre.

Yesterday, Somdev had pulled off an upset win over world number 45 Janko Tipsarevic 7-5 7-5 7-6(3) to bring India back in the tie after Bopanna`s 3-6 3-6 7-5 6-3 3-6 defeat against world number 18 Viktor Troicki.

Now India have an uphill task to win both the reverse singles tomorrow if they have to advance to the quarterfinals.

Somdev will take on Troicki while Bopanna will lock horns with Tipsarevic.

India last played in World Group quarter-finals in 1996 when they were drubbed 0-5 by Sweden at home.

The Indian pair squandered set points in both the third and fourth set tie-breaker as Serbians relied on strong serve of Zimonjic and overall good game to down fighting rivals.

Bopanna served extremely well throughout, not dropping his serve even once, but Somdev struggled with his first serve and that badly dented India`s chances.

Somdev dropped his serve fivce times and could manage to hold just four times in the entire match and the co-ordination required for the doubles matches was just not there.

It was understandable also as Somdev focuses on singles and Bopanna plays regularly with Pakistan`s Aisam-ul-haq Quershi on the ATP Tour.

The Indian duo improved gradually but in the end Serbians pocketed points when it mattered most.

Somdev and Bopanna put India ahead by winning the first set by attacking Bojolzac, who initially looked the weak link due to his not so strong serve.

Bojolzac could not hold his serve in the entire first set, and same was the case with Somdev but the crucial break which the Indian pair earned on the serve of Zimonjic in the ninth game helped them put their nose ahead.

However, the Serbs started dominating the proceedings as the match progressed with Bojoljac putting up a much a better show with a lot more control over his serve and game.

Somdev again dropped his serve in the fourth game of the second set and Bozoljac held both of his serves — first and fifth — to put Serbia ahead 4-1.

Somdev held his serve for the first time in the match in the eighth game but the 5-3 cushion that the Serbs enjoyed helped the hosts draw level.

Going with the momentum, Zimonjic and Bozoljac put a lot of pressure on Somdev, who yet again failed to hold early in the third set.

Combined with that, the Indians missed out on a break chance in the next game off Zimonjic and eventually Bozoljac served out the set to push Serbia close to win.

The fourth set was a see-saw affair with Bozoljac and Somdev dropping their serves to be 5-5 at one stage.

The Indian pair squandered a set point in the 10th game and Somdev saved three breakpoints in 11th game and the last one thanks to a contentious baseline call by the umpire.

An exciting tie-breaker followed in which the hosts prevailed when Zimonjic hit a backhand volley winner.