Rohan Bopanna concluded his Davis Cup career with a comfortable straight-sets victory alongside Yuki Bhambri. Sumit Nagal too secured a win in the reverse singles match as India progressed to the World Group I playoffs with a 4-1 victory against Morocco in, Lucknow, the capital city of India’s Uttar Pradesh on Sunday (17).
The 43-year-old Bopanna, coming out to play his 33rd and final tie, and Bhambri raced to a 6-2 6-1 win over Elliot Benchetrit and Younes Lalami Laaroussi in one hour and 11 minutes at the Mini Stadium.
India’s number one singles player Sumit Nagal outgunned Yassine Dlimi 6-3 6-3 in the first reverse singles to seal the World Group II tie.
It is only the second time that Nagal has won both his singles matches in a Davis Cup tie. He had got a similar result under his belt while playing against Pakistan in Kazakhstan in 2019.
Nagal earned early breaks in both the sets, leaving Dlimi playing catch-up in the contest that ended in one hour and 43 minutes.
Rookie Digvijay Pratap Singh, who ended runner-up at the Fenesta Nationals last year, won the inconsequential fifth rubber against Walid Ahouda 6-1 5-7 10-6 on his debut.
The 23-year old trains at National Tennis Centre (NTC) in New Delhi and needs to work hard on his game to compete at a high level.
Morocco won only one rubber in the tie when Sasikumar Mukund conceded the opening singles against Dlimi due to cramps.
An emotional Bopanna rested his India-shirt on the court, marking the end of his Davis Cup career in which he played 50 matches in 33 ties, winning 23 rubbers, including 13 in doubles.
Watched by his family and friends, Bopanna, who made his Davis Cup debut in 2002, acknowledged the fans’ appreciation and blew kisses towards the spectators stands.
About 50 of Bopanna’s family and friends flew to Lucknow to watch the Coorg player in action one last time in Davis Cup. They were wearing T-shirts that had a tri-colour-waving Bopanna picture printed.
As one of the most powerful servers of the game makes the exit, the next generation players will have to up their game. Bopanna will continue playing on the ATP Tour.
Asked why he has decided to quit Davis Cup when he will still be active on Pro Tour, Bopanna justified his decision. “The number one thing is that there is another Indian who takes my spot. On the tour, that’s not going to happen,” Bopanna told PTI.
“And over the years, a week off here and there before big events has made that difference. So, if I stop Davis Cup and get those two weeks off, it makes such a big difference in terms of how my body is feeling and everything.
“And one of the major reasons, also is that we have a daughter who’s four years old. I would like to spend time also at home. It has been a fantastic journey, everything has to come to an end,” he added.
Younes could not hold his serve even once in the match while the Indians faced just one break point when Bhambri served and saved that too.
The Indians drew first blood when they broke Younes. On a Bhambri backhand return at 30-15, Younes netted the volley. Bhambri smashed a volley winner on Younes’ return to earn the first breakpoint.
Benchetrit went for an angled volley winner on a Bhambri return but the ball went out as Indians led 3-1. Bopanna came out serving the next game at love to make it 4-1. Younes’ serve came under attack once again in game eight.
Bopanna found a winner at 15-15 and the Morocco player served a double fault to be down by two break points.
Bhambri converted the set point with a volley winner on a feeble Younes return.
The first set ended in a jiffy, just 34 minutes as the Indians lost five points on their serve.
Bopanna’s big serve was at work in the second set too as he began the proceedings with a comfortable hold but Bhambri’s serve came under pressure in the third game when at 30-all, his half-volley pick up flew out of the court.
The Indians, though, saved the break point. Younes was up 40-0 on his serve in game four but lost his way, serving double fault and making a lot of unforced errors to lose his serve for the third time in the match. Bhambri served out the match.