Monday, September 25, 2023

Davis Cup: Mukund limps out of singles, India trail Morocco 0-1

Struggling to cope with humid conditions, Sasikumar Mukund limped out of the opening singles against Yassine Dlimi to leave India trailing 0-1 in the Davis Cup World Group II tie here on Saturday.
A brief spell of rain before the match made the conditions tougher, and it all came down to fitness levels of the two debutants.

After being on court for three hours and eight minutes, the 26-year-old Mukund conceded the match, soon after taking a medical timeout at 1-2 of the third set. Cramping badly and grimacing in pain, he retired when the score was 7-6 (4) 5-7 1-4.

The huge difference in the rankings notwithstanding — Mukund is 192 places above Dlimi at 365 — it was far from an easy game for the Indian. “We knew the fitness will play a huge role in this tie. The conditions are tough but it’s same for both the players. Mukund had his chances and he did not take them. Once you start cramping and movement is restricted, psychologically, it becomes tough to come back,” said India coach Zeeshan Ali, summing up the situation.

Dlimi came into the tie after a consistent good run on the ITF Futures circuit, having reached three finals and two semifinals in his last five outings.
He carried the confidence into the match but struggled to contain his unforced errors, giving many free points to Mukund.

Mukund, on the other side, had lost four consecutive first round contests but he was competing at high-level tournaments, included an ATP1000 event. The level of tennis was already not great in the match and slowness of the court made it more physical. The onus is now on India’s number one singles player Sumit Nagal to being the hosts back in the tie. He will take on Adam Moundir in the second singles.

In a nervous start, Mukund began with a double fault but held his serve after playing deuce point.
The Indian was in a spot in game five, going down 15-30 with a backhand that sailed over the baseline but came back with a forehand winner to make it 30-all. A 26-shot rally followed which ended with Dlimi’s forehand kissing the net. Mukund held that game but handed the first break of the match in the ninth game.

He double-faulted after hitting a forehand wide to hand his rival two break chances. Dlimi’s deep returns on both flanks set up an easy finish. Running towards his left, Mukund barely managed to put the ball back in the court with a feeble backhand tap as the ball soared across the net.

Dlimi did not have to do much, he just smashed the ball for a winner to draw the first blood. The Morocco player, though, could not close the set in the next game as he dropped his serve following a string of unforced errors. It stretched to a tie-breaker in which Dlimi’s unforced errors let Mukund race to a 4-1 lead. Serving at 3-6, Dlimi saved the first set point with an ace but hit a forehand long on the second. Dlimi needed a good start in the second start but he dropped his serve in the very first game. Mukund consolidated the break. Soon the Indian was up 3-1 and it could have been 4-1 but Dlimi saved two break points in the fifth game.

Up a break and serving at 40-15 in the eighth game, Mukund began to struggle with his first serve. He lost his serve and the set was back on even terms at 4-4.
That struggle with first serve hurt Mukund badly as Dlimi forced a decider by breaking the Indian at love in the 12th game.



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