India’s top-ranked singles player Sumit Nagal saved the hosts the blushes with an imposing victory after Sasikumar Mukund limped out of the opening singles in humid conditions. (More Tennis News)
On the opening day of the Davis Cup World Group II tie in Lucknow on Saturday, India and Morocco shared honours 1-1.
A short spell of rain before the tie began made the conditions challenging, and it came down to the fitness levels of the players.
Having been on court for three hours and five minutes, the 26-year-old Mukund conceded the battle on his debut, soon after taking a medical timeout at 1-2 in the third set.
Cramping badly and grimacing in pain, he retired when the score was 7-6 (4), 5-7, 1-4.
The huge difference in the rankings notwithstanding — Mukund is 192 places above Dlimi at 365 — it was far from an easy outing for the Indian.
Ranked 156 on the ATP singles chart, Nagal then expectedly brought the home team back on level terms with a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 win over Adam Moundir, ranked 779.
While it was a dull and long contest in the opening singles, Nagal and Moundir played some gripping tennis.
Both the players hit the ball hard. Nagal, who is in good form and is enjoying a good run in the Challenger circuit, controlled the points well and made less unforced errors compared to his rival.
After breaking Moundir in the fifth game, Nagal dropped his serve immediately but found a way to break the Moroccan twice to run away with the opening set.
Moundir, though, used the drop shot quite effectively, especially when he lost points at the start of the games.
Nagal's court coverage and solid defence in long-drawn points was the highlight of his win.
"It is disappointing we lost the first match. Sasi consumed a lot of nervous energy. I told him to calm down. Unfortunately he started cramping. Sumit on the other hand is experienced and the difference of class was there," said skipper Rohit Rajpal.
Rohan Bopanna will play the last match of his Davis Cup career on Sunday with Yuki Bhambri. They will take on Elliot Benchetrit and Younes Lalami Laaroussi.
"We knew the fitness will play a huge role in this tie. The conditions are tough but it's same for both the players. Mukund had his chances and he did not take them. Once you start cramping and movement is restricted, psychologically, it becomes tough to come back," India coach Zeeshan Ali told PTI, summing up the first match.
(With PTI inputs)