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Bopanna caps off last Davis Cup match in style after doubles win

India completed a 4-1 victory over Morocco in a two-day World Group II Davis Cup tie at the Vijayant Khand Mini Stadium in Gomti Nagar, Lucknow, on Sunday, providing a fitting end to Rohan Bopanna’s 21-year career in the men’s team competition.

The host nation had a minor blip on the opening day when debutant Mukund Sasikumar lost the first singles match from a winning position against Yassine Dlimi before the country’s top-ranked player Sumit Nagal defeated Adam Moundir in straight sets to level the tie.

There was no such let-up from Rohit Rajpal’s side on another humid day in the UP capital with Bopanna, the 43-year-old veteran, and Yuki Bhambri setting the tone with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Elliot Benchetrit and Younes Lalami Laaroussi in the doubles rubber.

Bopanna played his 50th and final Davis Cup match in front of his family and friends, all wearing a customised white t-shirt featuring a caricature of the Karnataka player holding the tricolour flag.

Barring the opening game where they had a break point on Bopanna’s serve, the inexperienced Moroccan pair was largely no match for the Indians. While Benchetrit seemed to struggle with his timing and had problems with his racquet’s string tension, Laaroussi got broken in each of his four service games.

World No. 7 Bopanna did not need to perform with the same intensity that made him the oldest Grand Slam male finalist at the US Open last week. He and Bhambri looked out of sync at times but still managed to complete the job in 71 minutes and gave India a 2-1 lead.

The victory was followed by some heartwarming visuals, starting with Bopanna leaving his India jersey on the court to signify the end of his journey in the ‘World Cup of tennis’ that began in Adelaide in 2002. The 6’4” then waved the national flag and acknowledged the sizeable crowd cheering him and the Indian contingent.

“It is sad to be leaving the Davis Cup team but simultaneously proud to have played. I want to thank the entire nation and the captains I have played under. It has been a great journey. I was constantly learning from the young guys and teaching them too. It was definitely emotional when I saw my family and had all the good people around. So I was extremely happy with a win and we have good players to take things forward. I will be supporting them but for now, the two weeks off [during Davis Cup] will be spent with the family,” said Bopanna, who finished his Davis Cup career with 23 wins across singles and doubles.

Nagal killed the tie with another impressive show in a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Dlimi in the first reverse singles match. The 20-year-old Moroccan, despite his best efforts, could not break the Indian’s defence.

ALSO READ: Davis Cup Debut: The test of nerves in a trial by fire

The 26-year-old Nagal, who has won two Challenger titles this year and will play next at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, saved the two break points he faced and converted three of the five chances he got on the serve of World No. 557 with his superior fitness and constantly peppering the Moroccan’s weak backhand.

The Indian team took a victory lap, followed by Bopanna being lifted by captain Rajpal and teammate Digvijaypratap Singh on their shoulders.

Singh, too, made his debut for the national side and beat Walid Ahouda 6-1, 5-7, [10-6] in the second reverse singles.

With this win, the Indian Davis Cup team has qualified for the World Group I Play-offs, which will take place early next year.

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