It was a fantastic feast of tennis from Somdev Devvarman, who clinched a sensational straight sets victory over Janko Tipsarevic, to pull India back level at 1-1 with Serbia in the Davis Cup World Group first round here Friday night after Rohan Bopanna went down to World No. 18 Viktor Troicki in five sets.
Somdev showed remarkable resilience in rallying from an identical down 1-4 in the first two sets and clinching the third set on a tie-break to overpower World No. 45 Tipsarevic 7-5, 7-5, 7-6(3).
Bopanna, who lost the first two sets, came back strongly in the next two with his booming serve backed with power-packed hitting from backcourt before losing 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6.
Both Somdev and Bopanna produced, perhaps, their best Davis Cup tennis and raised their game to terrific heights to silence a partisan crowd at the indoor arena.
A totally transformed Somdev was on the court. His defensive play was all too well known but not his vastly improved serve and an aggressive streak. He ran down everything and his aggression was palpable as he went for lines and corners from different angles to leave Tipsarevic shellshocked.
He got out of difficult situations taking his opponent out of court with his angled serve, more potently when he banged them away to the deuce court and putting the winners away from Tipsarevic’s reach.
He served 10 aces to Serb’s three and hustled him by charging the net at crucial stages. Cumulatively, all these new weapons of Somdev left the Serb guessing.
Obviously, the Indian did his homework, having played Tipsarevic twice on the Tour – Los Angeles and Chennai. He had never taken a set off the Serb before.
There were spells when both the players brought the roof down retrieving everything.
Finding it difficult to engage Somdev in rallies, Tipsarevic tried to cut them short, but could not do it for long as the Indian made him run around.
The two fought furiously and holding their serve became difficult. There were four breaks of serve in the first set and six in a row in the third till Somdev held his in the 10th.
Somdev was too steady for Tipsarevic in the tie-break despite the Serb gaining an early mini break to jump to 3-1.
Earlier, with a little luck and concentration in the fifth set, Bopanna could have put India up winning the first singles. Having fought back so gallantly for four sets, he ran out of steam in the deciding set.
Bopanna, who turned 31 Friday, was down two sets but in a dramatic turn around made it two sets all against a player who is leading the challenge as the No.1 player in the absence of their top player Novak Djokovic.
Troicki, who was the hero of Serbia’s maiden Davis Cup triumph last year, was cruising to a straight set victory when Bopanna, playing some gritty tennis, broke in the 12th game of the third set to keep himself afloat in the tie.
In the fourth set a confident Bopanna, ranked a lowly 629th, raised his game several notches to go 5-3 up. A netted forehand by Troicki in the next game made it two sets all.
The Indian was brilliant in parts and his stinging groundstrokes on both flanks troubled the Serb. He, however, lacked the consistency to press home the advantage. Bopanna served big, slamming 15 aces, but it also came with 17 double faults and that undid his good work.
Troicki, too, served purposefully, popping 21 aces that bailed him out of tight spots.
In the absence of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, who pulled out due to injuries, Somdev and Bopanna will team up for the doubles match Saturday. The two will play doubles expert Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac.