|South Korea’s No. 1 player Suk Young Jeong in action against VM
Ranjeet, in New Delhi, on Sunday. A Telegraph picture
New Delhi: Two Indian debutants — VM Ranjeet and Vijayant Malik — put up a reasonably good display at the RK Khanna Stadium centre court on Sunday but it was not enough to prevent South Korea from walking away with a resounding 4-1 victory in the Asia Oceania Davis Cup tie.
The humiliating defeat on the home turf put India in the danger of being relegated to the tier two of the Asia Oceania group. Currently in Group One, India will now have to play the play-off against Indonesia at home in April.
It was frustrating to find the three-time Davis Cup finalists not being able to win even one set in four singles. Down 1-2 at the end of the Day Two, India lost the tie in 143 minutes in the morning on Sunday when VM Ranjeet went down to South Korea’s No. 1 player Suk Young Jeong in straight sets — 4-6, 4-6, 2-6 — in the first reverse singles.
In the day’s second rubber, Malik, who conceded his tie on the opening day because of muscle cramps, looked fitter but lost to Ji Sung Nam 2-6, 4-6. For being a dead rubber, it was reduced to a three-set contest.
After Leander Paes and Purav Raja brought India back into the tie with their doubles display, the Indian fans came in numbers on Sunday to back the home players. In the end, it was heartbreaking sight to find the 4,000 odd spectators leaving the stadium quietly, while the handful of South Korean supporters celebrating the unexpected triumph. Had India been in full strength, the contest would have been much closer.
So elated were the South Korean players that they went on celebrating long after the tie was over. In their next tie, South Korea would face formidable Japan for a place in the play-off round.
There was absolute gloom in the Indian camp after the tie. While the non-playing captain SP Mishra tried his best to back the youngsters, two former Davis Cuppers — Jaidip Mukerjea and Akhtar Ali — sounded depressed.
“This is a tie we could have won, if we had the full team,” said Mukerjea. “The rebel players should have played… the AITA (All India Tennis Association) also could have found a way to make them available.”
Akhtar felt the rebel players have gone too far by refusing to play for the nation. “That’s not right, the least they could have done was to play the tie and then make the demands. Asking the federation to change the coach or the captain was not within their rights,” he said.
India were without the services of some of their best players including Somdev Dev Varman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna, Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan and Sanam Singh. They opted out of the tie after AITA refused to fulfil their entire list of demands.
Despite their best efforts, both Ranjeet and Malik looked out of place in the court. Unlike Day One, Ranjeet, a 2008 National champion, started on a bright note only to fade away later. The Tamil Nadu boy held on to his service initially only to lose it in the ninth game without winning a point. Jeong clinched the first set 6-4.
Also, fitness seems to be big problem for the Indian youngsters. Malik succumbed to cramps on Day One and, on Sunday, Ranjeet faced problems on his right shoulder during the second set.
After one break each on either side, Ranjeet was broken in the ninth game. He had to be treated on the sidelines before he returned to the court to surrender the 10th game without winning a point.
“The Indian juniors are having fitness problems,” noted Akhtar later. “Previously, I found Yuki Bhambri and Vishnu Vardhan also facing similar problems. They have to train harder,” he added.
Jeong won the third set easily at 6-2. Ranjeet made a few futile attempts to come back but he was too erratic to turn the table.