Chandigarh: It turned out to be a tough day for the Indian youngsters against New Zealand as Yuki Bhambri endured a five-set grind to provide the home team with a 1-0 lead while Vishnu Vardhan led his rival by two sets to one when bad light stopped play in the Davis Cup tie here on Friday.
Vishnu was leading 6-2 6-7(5) 6-4 in the second singles against Kiwi No 1 Jose Statham when the latter raised concerns about fading light. The second rubber will be completed on Saturday before the doubles and if Vishnu manages to wrap it up in the fourth set, he will play in the doubles as well.
In case, the match is stretched to the fifth set, Sanam Singh is likely to replace Vishnu in the doubles match of the AsiaOceania Group I relegation play-off tie.
Yuki Bhambri was staring at a humiliating defeat after losing the first two sets but regrouped for a 3-6 0-6 6-2 6-4 6-2 win against Daniel King Turner in the opening singles.
It was for the first time that Yuki played a five-setter, which lasted three hours and 15 minutes. The Indian youngsters started as favourites but it was no stroll in the park for them and the Kiwi players deserve kudos for stretching their higher-ranked rivals to limits.
"It was not the kind of tennis I like to play but I am glad I pulled it off," Yuki said after the match.
"I played terribly to lose the second set 0-6 but the team kept supporting me. I wanted to win one game and gradually gained in confidence."
India coach Nandan Bal said he is aware of the fact that the boys will have to work hard.
"We were expecting a tough day. Let's see how it goes. We are still looking at Vishnu for the doubles but Sanam is also an option for us," Bal told PTI.
Vishnu, ranked 262, made a dominating start as he soon shot to a 4-1 lead with a break of serve and comfortably pocketed the opening set.
Statham though put up a gallant fight and a baseline slugfest began in the second set. With the two players holding serves, the issue was decided through the tie-breaker which was won by the Kiwi after reeling off four straight points while trailing 3-5.
After being locked 4-4, Vishnu got the crucial break in the ninth game and served out the set in the next. Expected Statham did not want to continue and the officials accepted his plea considering insufficient light.
Earlier, conditions were gloomy when the tie began after a 90-minute rain delay and Yuki's fortunes looked no better as he almost plunged to defeat after being down by two sets.
Yuki seemed in complete disarray to start with but the 20-year-old scripted a complete turnaround.
The Indian slowed down the pace of the game by engaging his Kiwi rival in long rallies. The sting in the serve was back, errors were curtailed and most importantly Yuki snatched the momentum from Turner, whose patience ran out in the face of crowd favourite's perseverance.
Successive breaks in fifth and seventh game respectively handed Yuki a 5-2 cushion, and he served out the third set after saving a breakpoint in the next game.
Yuki broke the Kiwi player's service in the first game of the fourth set to gain the advantage. But Turner fought hard and even saved a breakpoint in the fifth game, which he closed with an ace.
However, an early break of serve put the Indian in the advantageous position and it stayed with him as the two players held their serves after that.