Davis Cup: India blank Pakistan, return to World Group I

Team India
Indian players and support staff pose with the tricolour. Photo: PTI /Amanpreet Singh

Islamabad: The Indian Davis Cup team capped its historic visit to Pakistan after 60 years by sealing its place in World Group I as it blanked Pakistan 4-0 with Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni recording a comfortable victory and Niki Poonacha making a winning debut, here on Sunday.

Taking the court with a 2-0 lead in pocket, Bhambri and Myneni subdued the home duo of Muzammil Murtaza and Aqeel Khan 6-2, 7-6(5) in the doubles rubber to extend India's dominance over Pakistan in the tournament.

The 28-year-old Poonacha was then asked to play the dead fourth rubber against Muhammad Shoaib, who he beat 6-3, 6-4. The fifth match was not played.

Earlier, Aqeel replaced Barkat Ullah in the doubles tie. The idea was to have an experienced player for the do-or-die match.

However, Bhambri and the big-serving Myneni did not put a foot wrong in the match in which they were not troubled by their rivals much. The gulf in quality in the two teams was apparent.

Myneni's big serves were too hot to handle for the home team. Myneni hardly lost a point on his serve and was also superb at the net.

The Indian players' returns were also better as several times Bhambri sent down winners between the two Pakistani players.

It was India's eighth win over Pakistan in as many meetings in the event, called the World Cup of tennis and now it will compete in World Group I in September this year while Pakistan will stay in Group II.

The Indian team adapted well to the tough conditions and the heavy security around them, not letting the restrictions on their movement have an adverse impact on them.

The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) did well in creating a safety net around the players, as several agencies worked in tandem to ensure that the tie went without any untoward incidents.

Bhambri and Myneni had a tight grip over the contest from the beginning. They broke Aqeel in the first and fifth games for a commanding 4-1 lead. In game one, Aqeel hit a backhand long and wide to be down two breakpoints.

While Myneni hit wide on first, he found and easy volley winner on Aqeel's feeble return.

The Pakistani stalwart again dropped serve in game five, his overhead flat smash flying over the baseline at 30-all and Bhambri sent down a crushing forehand winner between the two players to close out the game.

Murtaza went down by three set points in game seven but saved all as the two players finally got some rhythm.

Bhambri came out to serve the set and did with ease as Murtaza could not return a widish serve from the Indian on the first set point.

Aqeel finally began to hold his serve. The second set was 5-5 on serve. In between Murtaza saved three breakpoints in game five. It boiled down to the tie-breaker in which a few errors from the Indians got the Pakistanis ahead 4-2.

However, Bhambri and Myneni ensured that there was no twist in the tale. They quickly made it 5-5 as Aqeel and Murtaza lacked coordination.

Aqeel double faulted at match point to hand India the tie.

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