| Rohan Bopanna delivers one of his booming serves at the South Club Saturday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta, April 5: The New Zealand camp was livid about the condition of the court even after pulling off a win that made it 1-1 in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania group I round 2 tie against India Saturday.
Alistair Hunt, who beat Rohan Bopanna after losing the first two sets, and non-playing captain Glenn Wilson clearly said the court was far from what is needed for any kind of tennis.
“To be honest, it’s still very much wet, even now,” said Hunt after the match. “I was actually pretty angry to be there, because I had never seen or played on such a wet grasscourt.
“I don’t think they would allow play to continue in such wet conditions in any grasscourt tournament. It was slippery and the soil was too soft,” Hunt complained.
Wilson said they wanted the referee to stop the match before it got underway. “We put pressure on the referee to stop the match and wait for a while. There was time, but we had to respect the referee’s decision. In fact, I had a go at him in the second set too.”
Referee Nao Kawate defended his stand. “Things looked normal when we decided to start the match an hour behind schedule,” the Japanese said.
About the game, Hunt admitted that pulling off a win was never a serious thought. “I never thought I would win after losing the first two sets. I was sure I would lose and had even started preparing for that.
“I was just going through the motions in the third set when I got a break. Even then I was not thinking of a win. I started thinking of it only after winning the first game in the fifth set,” Hunt disclosed.
The 30-year-old, whose best world ranking was “around 180” in 1996, rated Saturday’s win as the best of his career. This, in fact, was his first victory in five sets. Even the captain said it was “a privilege to see this match.”
“It was one of his gutsiest efforts. I have never seen him play so well. He had beaten players like Oleg Ogorodov (Uzbekistan) and Paradorn Srichaphan when the Thai was ranked around 100. But those wins came at home.
“Considering that there were so many impediments here like heat, surface and playing against the crowd, I think this has been Hunt’s best performance,” noted the non-playing captain.
He warned that the pressure will be on India in Sunday’s doubles. “We have nothing to lose.” He informed that Hunt is certain to play the match, though there may be a change in the declared combination of Hunt and Mark Nielsen. The options with Wilson are James Shortall and Robert Cheyne.
Hunt and Nielsen were named for the four singles as well as for doubles. “There will be a change in what was stated earlier, either in doubles or in reverse singles. We will spring in another player at some point tomorrow.”
Spirits were low in the Indian camp and non-playing captain Ramesh Krishnan said it was “definitely a heartbreak” after losing the match despite being 2-0 up. But he added Bopanna still has a chance.
“The best thing is he will get a chance to redeem himself in less than 24 hours. Although he lost, he played five sets and I expect him to come back stronger,” Ramesh said.
He felt Bopanna should have gone for the kill when he was going strong in the early part of the match. “He should have gone through the first two sets quicker. He had the rhythm and Hunt was struggling.”
The player felt he lost the plot in the third set. “I was well in control and thought I was winning. But I played a few loose games in the third set and allowed him to come back in the match. Maybe I was going for too many things.”