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Romania crush India in opening singles

Last updated on: September 19, 2008 19:58 IST

Romania all but ended India's hopes of making a re-entry into the World Group as Victor Hanescu and Victor Crivoi won the opening singles to give them a decisive 2-0 lead in the Davis Cup Play-offs in Bucharest on Friday.

Hanescu thundered his way to a 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 win over young Somdev Devvarman in an hour and 24 minutes after Crivoi had got past an erratic Prakash Amritraj 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 in the first singles of the day.

If Amritraj was over-zealous in coming to the net against Crivoi, Somdev was lucky to be in the same zipcode as Hanescu by the end of the match.

The 6' 6" Hanescu, an established Davis Cupper, was on the prowl from ball one and proved too tall an order for the young Indian. With Hanescu hitting the straps, pushing the ball deeper, Somdev retreated and faded fast. He chased down the precise ground strokes from Hanescu, rather made a mad dash for it, but the best he could do was put the ball back into play.

Somdev tried to stay in the first set, holding his serve in the first three games, even as he had to wait for the fourth game to win a point off Hanescu's serve. But once the Romanian, ranked 175 places above his opponent, had broken serve for a 4-3 lead he raced through untroubled.

His serve was lethal and he smacked more than 50 winners, to reduce the game to a tennis clinic for Somdev, who turned professional only in June.

Earlier, Crivoi, playing only his second Davis Cup match and having won only two games against Korea's Hyung Taik Lee on debut, started slowly, conceding a 0-3 lead, as Amritraj's zeal to attack the net caught him flat-footed on the relatively fast red clay.

Though the tactics served the Indian well, he pulled the trigger too much, too quickly. Serving for the set at 5-2, Amritraj made three unforced errors and paved the way for a Crivoi fightback.

The scampering Romanian used his forehand to expose the chinks in Amritraj's armour and won five games in a row to take the opening set 7-5.

Crivoi looked like running away with the match as he took charge of the game from the baseline and let Amritraj make the errors. He raced off to a 5-3 lead and was on course to bag the set, when, like the Indian in the first set, he was hit with a bout of nerves.

Amritraj attacked the Romanian's serve, made three return winners, broke back and returned the favour by winning the set 7-5, after Crivoi pulled a forehand pass wide.

Both players faltered when ahead, almost too scared to make a stab and run away with the match.

The poker-faced Crivoi didn't say much with the body language. He simply changed into a red tee and turned unstoppable.

The Romanian had some nervous moments, especially at the end of the fourth set, but chose percentage over flamboyance to keep ahead of the fighting Amritraj.

Though the last set was closer than the score suggested, the errors came from the front of the court for the Indian at the most inopportune moments.

Amritraj held chances to break Crivoi in the eighth game. The Romanian seemed to be struggling physically, clutching his leg between serves, but did not let a repeat of the second set happen and closed out the match with a forehand winner, his 20th of the match.

Our Correspondent