Downs Uzbek Isamilov in four-set thriller
Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran handed India a 2-0 lead over Uzbekistan as they staved off a spirited challenge in their respective singles matches in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie in Bengaluru on Friday.
In the opening singles rubber, 267th ranked Ramanathan overcame Temur Isamilov 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, while debutant Gunneswaran, ranked 187, outwitted Sanjar Fayzieb 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Ismailov is ranked 406, while Fayzieb was played in place of Denis Istomin, who had pulled out of the second round tie due to a foot injury.
To his credit, Ismailov made life difficult for the Indian despite suffering cramps in his right hamstring.
Ramkumar dominated the proceedings before a bout of double faults handed Ismailov a small opening, which the Uzbek garbbed with both hands to make a match of it.
The Indian sealed the opening set in a jiffy and was leading 4-3 in the second when he saw himself down 0-40. He saved two breakpoints but netted a backhand on the third to allow Ismailov stay alive.
The Uzbek played freely while Ramkumar put himself under pressure to finish the job quickly. The nerves got to Ramkumar and, in utter desperation, he squandered four set points and was eventually broken in the 12th game.
The Uzbek had snatched the momentum but suffered cramps in his right leg in the third set, making Ramkumar’s job easy. Ramkumar ran away with the third set as Ismailov's restricted movements gave him easy points.
Isnailov, though, recovered remarkably after a medical timeout and was battle ready for the fourth set. Ramkumar was always catching up with the Uzbek, holding his serves without fuss, and soon it was 5-5.
Two unforced errors by Ismail gave Ramkumar three break chances. He converted the third when Ismail buried a return to the net.
Ramkumar's unforced errors continued as twice he sent down double faults on match points. He then sealed the match with a forehand volley winner.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran, ranked 287, makes his India debut against Sanjar Fayziev (376).
The winner of the tie will qualify for the World Group play-offs, to be played in September.