Kaohsiung (Chinese): Somdev Devvarman expectedly gave India the first singles and predictably, on current form, Lu Yen-hsun made it 1-1 for Chinese Taipei on the opening day of their Asia-Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie at the Yang-Ming Tennis Centre here on Friday.
For Somdev, his 7-5, 6-4, 6-4, victory over Ti Chen was his first in the Davis Cup, but Lu showed the 320th-ranked Indian why he is ranked as high as 59 by outplaying the Indian 7-6(2),6-2, 6-2.
Somdev made his Davis Cup debut against Uzbekistan last year and then played in the World Group play-off against Romania in September but lost all his singles matches. But he looked a totally different player on Friday. He was a bit slow to get off the blocks, but once he got the measure of his opponent, he had the match firmly under control.
Chen, ranked 365, entered the match high on confidence after besting World No 180 Yuri Schukin in Taipei's 4-1 win over visiting Kazakhstan in the first round and with his attacking forehand he unsettled the Indian to start with.
But Somdev, knowing well that winning the opening singles is crucial if the team has to have any chance of wrapping up the tie, played a tactical game. Realising that Chen was using his pace to hit ground strokes, he stopped looking for winners and lines. Instead, the India No .1 worked on the points, slowing down the pace.
Once settled, he attacked Chen's weak backhand. The Indian saved two set points in the tenth game to stay on serve. He broke Chen in the next game and then served out the first set. Chen's confidence took a beating in the second set and three unforced errors in the fifth game gave three break points to Somdev and another volleying error gave Indian the break.
All of a sudden, Somdev was on a song and quickly jumped to a 5-2 lead breaking Chen's serve again in the seventh game. As he served for the second set the fighter in Chen woke up. Playing aggressively he moved Somdev around and broke him to love. Somdev regrouped himself to take his next service game to go two sets up.
By now, Somdev had a firm grip on the match and a quick break in the third game of the third set put him on the way to a straight sets victory. However, Chen broke back.
Somdev was unrelenting and pulled off another break in the seventh game and then held his serve for a decisive 5-3 lead. Thereafter he only had to hold his serve and that he did in the tenth game without any more hiccups.
In the second singles, Bopanna faced a tall order against Taipei's No1 Lu whom he had beaten twice in their three meetings in the last two years. The Indian began solidly and with his big serve and powerful ground strokes kept pace with Lu in the first set. In fact, Bopanna had opportunities to win the set, but he just could not grab them.
With both players serving well, the set went into the tie-break which Lu easily clinched.
Lu kept up the momentum and took the next two sets without any difficulty. With superb court-craft and a lethal forehand he broke 29-year-old Bopanna twice -- in the third and the fifth game--to go two sets up.
There was no stopping Lu in the third set. Breaking Bopanna in the third and seventh games, he raced to three match-points in the eighth game. But rain halted play for an hour and when it resumed, Lu quickly clinched the second match point.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi on Saturday will play Tsung-Hua Yang and Chu-Huan Yi in the doubles.
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