Ramkumar Ramanathan put India ahead with his stellar show against Brayden Schnur in the opening singles tie of the Davis Cup against Canada but it was Yuki Bhambri who stole the show with a fighting effort against Canada's upcoming star Denis Shapavolov on day one of the World Group Play-off tie at Edmonton.
Yuki staged a big comeback after being down by two sets and a match point in the third set but eventually lost 6-7(2) 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 1-6 to world No.51 Denis Shapovalov, an audacious performance in three hours and 52 minutes battle.
It happened after 22-year-old Ramkumar, ranked 154th, tamed debutant Brayden Schnur 5-7 7-6(4) 7-5 7-5 in the first singles, which was also a marathon match lasting three hours and 16 minutes.
"Boys played with a lot of heart...the plan was to fight regardless of the score and Ram swung a losing battle and Yuki almost did too," Indian captain Mahesh Bhupathi told PTI.
"The pressure remains on them. If we fight like this anything is possible." This defeat would rankle Yuki for sometime as Shapovalovhad started feeling the heat following the Indian's perseverance.
The left-handed Shapovalov unleashed his power-packed game from the beginning and Yuki was mostly left to defend but after taking the third set from the home favourite, it was the Indian who dictated the terms.
An early break in the fifth set again shifted the momentum in Shapovalov's favour. The Canadian found his mojo after breaking Yuki in the third and broke him again in the sixth game to take a 5-1 cushion and clinched the issue with a crushing forehand winner.
Yuki proved that his recent win over world number 22 Gael Monfils was no fluke and he give a good fight to the world's top players.The 18-year-old Shapovalov, who recently beat the likes of Rafael Nadal, Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro, was playing his first ever five-set match and all credit to Yuki for making his life tough.
The Delhi youngster played with a lot of maturity and showed he has toughened up mentally as he hardly showed nerves despite trailing by two sets.
The games were short as the two players served even, it was Yuki who had to work harder for the points.Playing smartly, Yuki made his serve to jump from the court by employing more of his shoulder to create extra bounce and it helped him hold serve throughout the match.Yuki also changed his tactics intelligently in the match, trying to restrict Shapovalov's fierce forehand by feeding him more on the backhand but still the Canadian created some breathtaking service return winners.
After pocketing the opening set, Shapovalov shifted gears without fuss in the second set tie-breaker as he raced to a commanding 5-1 lead and sealed a 2-0 lead courtesy a barrage of winners that rained through his forehand.
The missile-like serves and equally fearsome returns continued to lash Yuki. The Indian was broken in the first game of the must-win third set but broke immediately when Shapovalov double-faulted at deuce and sent a forehand long. It was Yuki's first break of the match as he tried to make a fight out of it.
The Indian also targetted a few winners down the line on both the flanks by moving Shapovalov on the court. The battle grew in intensity and Yuki was eating into Shapovalov's energy with his dogged approach.