Somdev Devvarman learnt a good tennis lesson from Mikhail Youzhny and was outclassed 2-6 1-6 3-6 in the first reverse singles, resulting in India's ouster from the elite World Group of the Davis Cup tournament in Moscow on Sunday .India were playing in the World Group for the first time since their 1998 appearance.
With this win, Russia have taken a decisive 3-1 lead and secured a quarter-finals place while India would yet again compete in the play-offs to re-enter the 16-team World Group. Russia have levelled the head-to-head scores 2-2 between the two nations.
Somdev's defeat has rendered Rohan Bopanna's second reverse singles of the first round tie against Igor Kunitsyn inconsequential.
It was first meeting between Somdev and Youzhny and the class difference between the two players was glaring. The Russian conceded just six games in the lop-sided match that lasted one hour and 55 minutes. Somdev put up a good fight in the third set but Youzhny was too good for him.
Youzhny showed why he is top-15 player as he never let Somdev play his style of game from the baseline. He in fact took advantage of it. Somdev had no answer to Youzhny's solid ground-strokes and smart drop volleys. The Russian attacked Somdev's weak second serve and set up and took points at will, executing a perfect gameplan.
In no time Somdev was down by two breaks -- third and fifth games -- and the Russian comfortably placed with a 5-2 lead. Youzhny served out the first set with a drop volley in just 31 minutes. The very Somdev, who had never bothered about the rankings of his opponents, looked helpless against Youzhny who toyed with the Indian.
Such was the control and domination of the Russian over his opponent that hardly an unforced error came off Youzhny's racquet.
Whenever Somdev tried to engage Youzhny in a long rally, the Russian would come with a big stroke or a smart volley, leaving the Indian reach for the ball.
Somdev's misery grew all the more in second set as he could not get on the board till the fifth game. And that was the only game he could win on his serve in that set.
Somdev tried to do something different in the third set as he changed his tactics and approached the net more often but Youzhny had all the answers and was not troubled at all. It did look like a contest in the third set and the fourth game saw the most fierce fight for points. Somdev saved quite a few breakpoints but it was the Russian who ran away with the game to create a 3-1 lead.
The Indian though hung in and after one hour and 34 minutes for the first time Youzhny was down a breakpoint. The Russian held after saving two breakpoints but had to sweat it out this time. Somdev fought with his never-say-die spirit but that merely delayed Youzhny's win. PTI