New Delhi: A charged up VM Ranjeet put up a spirited fight before losing the must-win reverse singles against Suk-Young Jeong as India conceded an unassailable 1-3 lead against Korea in the Asia|Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie here on Sunday.
Ranjeet fought gallantly in the do-or-die fourth rubber before losing 4-6, 4-6, 2-6 to a player, who is ranked 190 places above him at 321, after battling for two hours and 23 minutes.
After Leander Paes and Purav Raja's doubles win on Saturday, India needed to win both the matches to advance to the second round. The Korean singles players are far superior to the Indians but Ranjeet won many a heart by putting up a decent fight on the slow centre court of the RK Khanna Tennis stadium.
Now Vijayant Malik, who had conceded his singles match on day one due to cramps, will clash with Min Hyeok Cho in the dead fifth rubber. India had a good chance to win this tie but for unavailability of 11 top players, the advantage of playing at home against a manageable opponent was lost.
Sanam Singh, one of the players in the rebel group, watched from the stands as Ranjeet fought for India's cause. An emotionally charged up Ranjeet, eager to prove a point or rather determined to redeem his and India's pride, gave his all from the word go.
He had managed to win just two games in his debut match against Cho on day one, and so when he held his serve in the very first game of the match, the joy and relief was palpable.
The 2008 national champion backed himself, cheered himself on and celebrated each and every point he won by pumping his fist or waving his racquet towards his team-mates who were egging him on.
Going by the experience on day one, the 27-year-old Chennai lad knew that engaging the Korean in long rallies would not work, so he tried to cut down the number of shots in the rallies by playing angled shots, looking for winners.
The strategy worked very well for him and the opening set was on serve till the eight game. But he survived three break chances in the fifth in the process. However, the Korean kept it simple and never let the Indian dominate or impose on him. With scoreboard reading 4-4, Ranjeet, eyeing that elusive break, went for some extravagant shots by attacking Jeong's serve but the strategy did not work and he was down 0-40 facing three break chances.
An unforced error from Ranjeet, a forehand return kissing the net, meant that Korean got the first break of the match and he served out the set in the next game after a good 57-minutes battle.
Jeong stepped up and broke Ranjeet in the very first game of the second set to gain the upper hand. But Ranjeet refused to give up and he broke Jeong in the sixth to level the scores. Ranjeet handed the advantage to Jeong in the ninth game again by dropping his serve and the Korean served out the set for a 2-0 lead.
A break of serve at the start of the third set again handed the cushion to Jeong. Defeat was looming large but Ranjeet kept fighting but that only delayed the inevitable.
A double fault by Ranjeet while down a breakpoint pushed Jeong nearer to the win and the Korean sealed the match and the tie when Ranjeet sent a backhand long.