| different ball game: Lleyton Hewitt in a charity ‘Aussie Rules’ football match at Adelaide Oval Sunday. (AFP)
Adelaide: Australia completed a 5-0 rout of India on Sunday in the qualifying tie at the Memorial Drive here to enter the Davis Cup World Group stage.
Australia rounded off their performance against the Indians winning both the reverse singles matches, reduced to dead rubbers, after the Aussies had taken an unbeatable 3-0 lead.
Scott Draper had little difficulty in putting away Rohan Bopanna, who came in for Leander Paes, 6-3 7-5, but Wayne Arthurs had a match on his hands as Harsh Mankad pushed hard before going down 4-6, 6-3, 5-7 in 98 minutes.
Before the hosts could begin their party Mankad, who was overwhelmed by world no. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in his first match on Friday, occupied a few brief moments of glory, playing some refreshing tennis that belied his world ranking of 831.
“I thought I played some good tennis. It was more of my style, mixing volleys and serves,” he said. “I am happy I could give something to cheer about for the fans.
“Lleyton was a bit too tough. He is a master player and I have a lot to learn from him.”
Arthurs, against whom the Indians managed to win the only two sets they did in the whole encounter, conceded he was nervous against Mankad.
“Yes, I was a bit nervous. He came out of his shoes and gave a scare,” he said.
Probably the fact that there was no pressure like Day One helped Mankad. He showed no signs of nerves, and one could see, particularly in the second and third sets, the Adelaide weather had replaced a bit of his natural suavity with an ounce of typical Aussie grit.
After dropping serve in the fifth game of the first set, Mankad put up a stiffer resistance in the second as he went on the overdrive.
Arthurs, by the way, is too soft a chap to be considered Australian, and for once, it was the 22-year old Indian who was forcing him to come out of his shell as he took the second set.
But Mankad’s short and happy life at the court soon came to an end, for Arthurs’ experience stood him in good stead as the game entered the climax.
When it looked as if the decider could go into the tie-breaker, the tall and lanky South Australian held it that bit tight and Mankad, serving to stay in the match, fell in quick time.
The story was very much the same in Bopanna’s case too. In both the sets, the 22-year old failed at the crunch while the 147th ranked Draper put his foot down when it mattered. For someone playing his first Davis Cup match, Bopanna showed no fear of the big stage.
His aggression was a contrast to Mankad’s nice-guy character, and he showed it repeatedly as he retrieved himself from 15-40 situations a couple of times with strong serves. But Draper always had an answer to whatever Bopanna came up with. In the finishing stages, he ruthlessly moved ahead of the Indian.
Adelaide has shown that India lacks a quality singles player who could take them past the qualifying stage and into the World Group.
This is the third time they are losing a qualifying tie, after being defeated by Sweden in 2000 and the US in 2001. They will remain in the Asia-Oceania zone for the fourth year on the trot.
Australia's victory ensured they retain their place in the 16-nation Davis Cup World Group next year while India remains in the second tier.
Australia's non-playing captain John Fitzgerald said his team would be back to their best next year after former US Open finalist Mark Philippoussis announced he would make himself available. “We’re going to move on and get back into that World Group and do some damage next year,” Fitzgerald said.