Watching Yuki Bhambri struggle against Dusan Lajovic, Somdev Devvarman would have known he needed to not just put up a better fight, but get the better of his opponent for the night – Filip Krajinovic.
Well, the tennis was certainly better, and there was a bit more of a fight; but unfortunately for India, the result was the same – a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 loss -- giving Serbia an authoritative 2-0 lead in the Davis Cup World Group Playoff.
India need to play out of their skins in the next two days, starting with the doubles rubber involving Rohan Bopanna and the evergreen Leander Paes, to pull off a minor miracle, but going by the way the two singles players played at the KSLTA Stadium in Bangalore on Friday, Serbia are going to cruise the tie.
Somdev was by far the more experienced player to Krajinovic, and time was ripe to bring out all of that experience to the fore to shut out the young 22-year-old.
Instead, Krajinovic flew out of the blocks better, despite a stuttering first two games, to storm into the lead in the third game. Somdev had his chances, at 0-30 and 15-40 on quite a few occasions throughout the match, but the Indian just failed to capitalise on those chances.
Instead, Krajinovic jumped on Somdev like white on rice, and before you even knew it, the Serbian had taken the first set 6-1.
A comeback was necessary, and a comeback did come with Somdev finally getting into his groove, breaking Krajinovic in an epic third game of the second set, with break points, and deuces and game points coming and going and coming and going again, before the Indian, courtesy some help from the crowd, broke to take the lead.
From there, Somdev looked in control and seemed on course to level the match, before Krajinovic, with his brilliant serving and brutal groundstrokes, roared back to level the set at 4-4.
However, Somdev's will would prevail in the end in the second set, breaking back in the very next game, before holding comfortably to take it 6-4.
The momentum was completely with Somdev now, with the crowd's chants of "Somdev, Somdev" ringing in his ears, while the sudden turn of fortunes seemed to frazzle Krajinovic a little bit.
"The crowd were brilliant, they were right behind me from the second set and then the third, and I think it kinda pissed the other guy off a little bit," said Somdev. "But, I'm just sorry that we couldn't give them something more to cheer about today."
The match was there for Somdev to take, all he needed to do was keep the pressure on Krajinovic, and there was little doubt that he would crumble. However, Somdev refused to take his opportunities on Krajinovic's serve again, with many more 0-30s and 15-40s slipping away quicker than sand through the hands.
"I was struggling a little mentally in the second set, and Somdev was also playing great," Krajinovic said. "However, I started going for my shots in the third set and, thankfully, it worked."
To make matters worse, Somdev made a complete hash of a simple putaway on his serve in the sixth game, to give Krajinovic the game and bam the Serbian had a 4-2 lead. While Lajovic was more aesthetically pleasing, Krajinovic was a force of nature when on song, with booming serves and ridiculously powerful groundstrokes just blowing Somdev, who had no answer, the moment the Serbian regained momentum, to smithereens.
There was no looking back from there for the youngster as Somdev's will sapped away, giving Krajinovic the third set, and basically the match as the Serbian boy romped home in the fourth set.