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Davis Cup: India blank Pakistan 4-0, seal place in World Group I Tennis

Davis Cup
Indian players and coaches during the doubles match between India and Pakistan at the Davis Cup World Group I play-off tie, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Sunday. (Image: PTI)

Islamabad, February 4: Indian Davis Cup team capped its historic visit to Pakistan after 60 years by sealing its place in World Group I as it blanked Pakistan 4-0 with Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni recording a comfortable victory and Niki Poonacha making a winning debut, here Sunday. Taking the court with a 2-0 lead in pocket, Bhambri and Myneni subdued the home team of Muzammil Murtaza and Aqeel Khan 6-2 7-6(5) in the doubles rubber to extend India’s dominance of Pakistan in the tournament.
Aqeel replaced Barkat Ullah in the side. The idea was to have an experienced player for the do-or-die match, the defeat in which would have clinched India the tie.
However, Bhambri and big-serving Myneni did not put a foot wrong in the match in which they were not troubled by their rivals much. The gulf in quality in the two teams was apparent.
Myneni’s big serves were too hot to handle for the home team. Myneni hardly lost a point on his serve and was also superb at the net also.
The Indian players’ returns were also better as several times Bhambri sent down winners between the two Pakistani players.
The 28-year-old Poonacha was then asked to play the dead fourth rubber against Muhammad Shoaib, who he beat 6-3 6-4. The fifth match was not played.
Shoaib struggled with his serve but had a terrific backhand. Realising Shoaib’s strong point, Niki did not feed many balls to his backhand and comfortably logged the win. Shoaib also struggled to contain unforced errors, giving many free points to the Indian.
It was India’s eighth win in as many meetings in the event, dubbed as World Cup of tennis and now it will compete in World Group I in September this year while Pakistan will stay in Group II.
The Indian team adapted well to the tough conditions and the heavy security around them, not letting the restrictions on their movement have an adverse impact on them.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) did well in creating a safety net around the players, as several agencies worked in tandem to ensure that the historic tie went without any untoward incidents.
“The organisation was spot on. All the arrangements were good. We thank Pakistan Tennis Federation for being wonderful hosts,” India captain Zeeshan Ali said.
Bhambri and Myneni had a tight grip over the contest from the beginning. They broke Aqeel in the first and fifth games for a commanding 4-1 lead. In game one, Aqeel hit a backhand long and wide to be down two breakpoints. While Myneni hit wide on first, he found and easy volley winner on Aqeel’s feeble return.
The Pakistani stalwart again dropped serve in game five. his overheas flat smash flew over the baseline at 30-all and Bhambri sent down a crushing forehand winner between the two players to close the game.
Murtaza went down by three set points in game seven but saved all as the two players finally got some rhythm.
Bhambri came out to serve out the set and did with ease as Murtaza could not return a widish serve from the Indian on the first set point.
Aqeel finally began to hold his serve. The second set was 5-5 on serve. In between Murtaza saved three break chances in game five. It boiled down to a tie-breaker in which a few errors from the Indians got the Pakstanis ahead 4-2.
However, Bhambri and Myneni ensured that there was no twist in the tale. They quickly made it 5-5 as Aqeel and Murtaza lacked coordination. Aqeel double faulted at match point. (PTI)

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