New Delhi: India's Davis Cup campaign ended on a poor note as Ranjeet Virali Murugesan and Vijayant Malik lost their respective reverse singles matches giving South Korea a 4-1 win on the final day of their Group I Asia/Oceania first round tie here Sunday.
A vastly improved Ranjeet went down fighting 4-6, 4-6, 2-6 in the must-win first match of the day to a higher ranked Suk-Young Jeong as South Korea took an unassailable 3-1 lead against India on the hardcourts of the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium here.
In the fifth dead rubber, Vijayant, who conceded the singles Friday against Jeong due to cramps, lost 2-6, 4-6 against Ji Sung Nam as South Korea sailed into the second round where they will face Japan. India will now play the first round play-off, slated for April 5-7, against Indonesia, who were whitewashed by Japan.
For India it was a disappointing loss as they had to field a depleted side after top players, led by Somdev Devvarman, made themselves unavailable for the tie over a charter of demands. Trailing 1-2, both Ranjeet and Vijayant had a mountain to climb to avoid India's loss Sunday. The sizeable crowd that had turned out here expecting a miracle, saw an inspired Ranjeet going down fighting.
Having suffered a humiliating defeat in the first singles Friday, Ranjeet, ranked 511, punched above his weight against the 321-ranked Jeong but still lost in an encounter that lasted two hours and 23 minutes. Inspired by Leander Paes and Purav Raja's doubles win Saturday, Ranjeet was charged right from the start. But lack of maturity and experience at the top level made the difference.
Ranjeet, hammered 1-6, 0-6, 1-6 in the first singles by an unranked Min Hyeok Cho, raised his game several notches and was impressive with his serve and volleys. But he erred when he tried to put too much power behind his shots, committing errors. Jeong played a waiting game from the baseline and waited for Ranjeet to commit mistakes. However, it was a different Ranjeet Sunday who was determined not to be tamed easily.
Ranjeet surprisingly took a 1-0 lead as he broke the Korean No.1 in the first set. But Jeong was quick to draw parity at 2-2. The Indian was not willing to let it go without a fight. He made a great comeback in the fifth game, on his own serve, and saved two game points to take a 3-2 lead. But the Indian committed too many errors and failed to finish off points that allowed the Korean to come back from 3-4 to pocket the first set 6-4.
The second set also continued in the same breath as Ranjeet came back from two breaks down to make it 3-3 but failed to capitalise on it. In the third set, Jeong was unstoppable as Ranjeet soon ran out of steam but went down respectably.