India No.1 Prakash Amritraj recovered from a lethargic start as the hosts routed Nigeria 3-0 to win the gold medal in the men's team event of the tennis competition in the inaugural Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad on Monday.
After fellow Davis Cupper Rohan Bopanna put India ahead, trouncing Rotimi Jegede 6-2, 6-2, Amritraj found the going tough initially against Sunday Maku, the top-ranked Nigerian, before carving out a 6-4, 6-1 victory.
In the inconsequential third match of the tie, Vijay Kannan and Vishal Uppal tamed Balalola Abdul and Maku 6-1, 6-4 to complete the rout.
The African nation had to be content with the silver.
Amritraj looked out of touch from the beginning and had difficulty in getting his first serves going. He also committed a series of unforced errors as Maku broke him in the third game itself.
The Indian's first serves, which were very effective in the semi-final against Johny Arcila of The Phillpines, let him down and he also failed to return serve on several occasions.
But Amritraj, who is the top-ranked player in the field, kept his cool and bounced back, levelling the scores in the eighth game before breaking his rival in the 10th to clinch the set.
With a double break in the second set --- in the second and fourth games --- Amritraj again wrested the initiative and finished off rather easily in the end. Holding two match-points, the 20-year old Indian slammed an ace to win in style.
In contrast to Jegede's performance in the first match, the 27-year-old Maku, a member of the bronze medal-winning side in the All African Games at Abuja, Nigeria, began with good first serves and hit the ball hard, putting Amritraj under pressure. But he lapsed into errors in the later part of the set and the whole of the second set.
"It's amazing to win the gold for the country. It's great to represent the country and win the gold in an international event," Amritraj said.
Admitting that he did not play to his potential, Amritraj said Maku came out strong with good forehands and also got in his fast first serves.
"I got off to a slow start. But once I got settled it was better and I could close the gap."
Earlier, Bopanna faced few problems against Jegede, who was a surprise entry in place of Nigerian No.2 Abdul.
Bopanna dominated the match as he displayed a near flawless game. His first serves were too good for the Nigerian and his forehand shots went unchallenged on many occasions as Jegede turned out to be a mismatch. And the African put up some semblance of a fight only towards the end of the second set.
Bopanna broke the Nigerian in the very first game and again in the fifth before taking a 5-1 lead en route to clinching the set in just 25 minutes.
Nigerian captain Ubale Mohammad later said they were preserving Abdul for the doubles, hoping that Maku would take the match to the decider.
But Mohamaad gave full credit to the Indians and said his players just could not get going.
"Though ranked low, they are much better players," he said.
India beat Nigeria 3-0 [Rohan Bopanna bt Rotini Jegede 6-2, 6-2; Prakash Amritraj bt Sunday Maku 6-4, 6-4; Vijay Kannan/Vishal Uppal bt Balalola Abdul/Maku 6-1, 6-4.