It was a disappointing start to India’s Davis Cup campaign here on Friday as rookie Vijayant Malik conceded the second singles due to severe cramps despite putting up a valiant fight following a humiliating loss by debutant Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan in the first singles, giving South Korea a 2-0 lead on the first day of their Group I Asia/Oceania first round tie.
Ranjeet, who is India's No.1 player for the tie, was thrashed 1-6, 0-6, 1-6 by the unranked Min-Hyeok Cho at the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium.
After a humiliating loss in the first singles, Vijayant, ranked 537, gave the home crowd something to cheer with his spirited performance against Suk-Young Jeong, who is ranked 321.
But in the third set, with the score at 4-6, 5-7, 0-2, he felt excruciating pain in his left leg and collapsed on the court and conceded the match.
It was a sad end to Vijayant’s heroics that raised some hopes for the hosts after an embarrassing loss in the first singles.
Vijayant attacked from the outset and was on top of his game right. He led the first set 2-1 but some unforced errors helped the Jeong claw back into the game to make it 4-2. Vijayant, however, came back strongly in the next two games and pocketed the fourth game with a brilliant ace (4-4).
But the Korean made the best use of his experience and went for the kill whenever he found the opportunity while Vijayant failed to finish off points.
In the second set, Vijayant continued in the same breadth and took a 1-0 lead. It was a see-saw battle in the second game as the Indian came back from 0-40 to make it 40-40 but failed to seal it.
Egged on by a sizeable crowd, Vijayant soon made it 2-1 and but Jeong was soon back on level 2-2 despite the Indian saving four game points.
The match was evenly balanced at 5-5, but Jeong was indomitable in the last two games and won the set 7-5.
Vijayant started feeling a niggle in his left leg in the second set only and opted for medical help during the break. By the third set, trailing 0-2, Vijayant collapsed on the field with severe cramps to concede the match.
Earlier in the day, the unranked Cho dominated from the baseline and toyed with Ranjeet, who is ranked 511.
It was an erratic performance by the inexperienced Ranjeet, who was included in the side after several top players revolted against the All India Tennis Association (AITA) and made themselves unavailable for national duty.
Ranjeet gifted away easy points. Though he hit a few aces and managed to hold on to rallies twice, he committed too many unforced errors.
Cho, who is basically a doubles player, made the best use of his experience in thrashing the 27-year-old India.
The Korean said his ploy was to make Ranjeet work for the points.
“I was aware of the fact that he was an inexperienced player. So the ploy was to make him work hard for the points,” he said.
India are fielding an inexperienced team in the Davis Cup following a rebellion by senior players, led by Somdev Devvarman. Leander Paes is the only old face in the team.
On Saturday, Paes will be teaming up with another rookie Purav Raja for the doubles.