11/29/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/29/2019 08:01
Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal put India into a commanding position on Day 1 of their Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie with Pakistan, winning the opening singles matches for the combined loss of just two games to move within one win of victory.
Ramanathan gave India the perfect start with a 6-0 6-0 win over Pakistan's teenage player-captain Muhammad Shoaib in 42 minutes, before Nagal beat Huzaifa Abdul Rehman 6-0 6-2 to put Rohit Rajpal's team in charge heading into Saturday in Nur-Sultan.
Victory in Kazakhstan will send the winners into the 2020 Davis Cup by Rakuten Qualifiers in March, where they will travel to face 2018 champions Croatia. The losing side will take on Slovakia in the 2020 Davis Cup World Group I Play-offs.
'We couldn't have made a better start than this, 2-0 up, so there's a lot of pressure off the doubles team,' said Rajpal, the India captain. 'The players were motivated to do a professional job, and we look forward to tomorrow's match.'
Ramanathan underscored the gulf in experience between the two teams in the opening match with a ruthless performance against 17-year-old debutant Shoaib, to the delight of a vocal cluster of Indian fans at Kazakhstan's National Tennis Center.
'Playing for the country always means a lot for me and for every person in India,' said the world No. 176. 'I went in wanting to give my best for every point. I stayed really focused and think that was a good thing. Pakistan's players are just coming up, but we went in wanting to finish it off quickly. We wanted to play to our strengths and that gave us the win.
'It's always good to have an Indian crowd supporting us. It's always an advantage when you're playing, and it keeps you going and gives you confidence. It really does help, in any match.'
Nagal, the Indian No.1, admitted the only pressure he felt heading into his showdown with Rehman, another 17-year-old debutant, was to try and match Ramanathan's double bagel.
''I was trying really hard to match Ram's score - I mean, that was one of my goals,' said the world No.131, who won the first 10 games of the match before Rehman got on the board. 'To be honest, I went with the mentality that I want to win this match 6-0 6-0, but he did play well in a few of the games, so I have to give it to him.
'It always feels good when you go into the match 1-0 up instead of 0-1, because that does put an extra pressure. Ramkumar did well, played well, gave us a fantastic lead - we couldn't ask for a better score. This is the best start that could have happened for us.'
Rajpal confirmed that India intend to keep the same line-up for Saturday's doubles match, with Leander Paes and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan set to take on Shoaib and Rehman, with Yousaf Khalil waiting in the wings for the Pakistanis.
'We have a strategy cut out that we take it point by point and not relax in any match at all - the boys are professionals, and we want to do a professional job and take the win back home,' said the India captain, who expects the team to finish the job in style on Saturday for the fans who have made the trip to Nur-Sultan.
'I was a little surprised as we're playing at a neutral venue, but all these students got to know that we were here, and it's a pleasant surprise to have so many people backing us.
'It's always nice, and this is what the spirit of Davis Cup is - we have people from our own country coming and supporting the boys out there. That's the spirit, and that's what makes Davis Cup special. It was lovely to have that.'