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Davis Cup: Mahesh Bhupathi injury hurts India

India’s fate in the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie against South Africa is still hanging in balance as the visitors conceded the doubles rubber owing to Mahesh Bhupathi’s injury here on Saturday.

India were trailing 3-6, 6-3, 0-4 when Bhupathi and his partner Rohan Bopanna opted out of the contest, which means that Sunday’s reverse singles will decide which team will enter the World Group.

Friday’s victories by Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna had put India in driver’s seat and they were hoping to wrap up the tie today itself.

India still leads the tie 2-1 and need one more win out of two reverse singles, to be played at Ellis Park arena.

Somdev will lock horns with South Africa’s number one player Rik de Voest and Bopanna will clash against Izak Van der Merwe in the match between the number two players. India last played in the World Group in 1998 when they lost 1-4 to Italy.

The doubles rubber was heading for an exciting finish as India and South Africa were locked in an intense battle. Both the teams gauged each other initially before applying any strategy and he first seven games of the match went with serve.

Coetzee’s scintillating play at the net made a big difference. His lightening reflexes and agility was a treat to watch as the diminutive South African complimented well the big serving Moodie Coetzee set up the first break of the match when he fired a quick volley winner and followed it up by a down the line winner, earning two breakpoints for his team.

Bhupathi served big to save first but could not stop Moodie to convert the second.

Up by a break, Moodie served out the set without any fuss.

Bhupathi was at his best when he hit a return off Moodie over the head of Coetzee, almost like a lob, for a winner and then hit a zooming return winner to earn two breakpoints for India in the second game of the second set.

They could not convert any and then Bopanna survived a scare of break in the fifth game, saving a chance. Thanks to Bhupathi’s excellence, India earned two more chances in the seventh game and this time they did not falter and Bopanna drew parity by holding the next game.

Bopanna, who had been serving well, committed a costly volley error despite on top of the point and the resultant break handed South Africa 2-0 lead in the third set which became 4-0 when Bhupathi double faulted and retired.

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