Former Junior Wimbledon winner Sumit Nagal restored some pride for India by winning a rubber as Norway won 3-1 in the Davis Cup World Group First Round match here on Saturday.
With Norway taking an unassailable 3-0 lead, Nagal defeated Lukas Hellum Lilleengen in straight games, winning in one hour and 22 minutes in the inconsequential rubber of the five-match tie. Nagal, the 25-year-old from Jaitpur, Haryana, won 6-2, 6-1.
Nagal's victory came after India had lost the World Group First Round encounter to Norway after Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni put up a strong fight but lost to US Open finalists Casper Ruud and Viktor Durasovic.
Bhambri and Myneni came back strongly after losing the first set to win the second but down in the third to lose 3-6, 6-3, 3-6 in a two-hour encounter at the Hakans Hall in Lillehammer.
Trailing 0-2 after India's top singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran went down to Ruud, the World No. 2 in ATP Rankings, in straight sets -- 6-1, 6-4 and then Ramkumar Ramanathan too slumped to the same scoreline (6-1,6-4) against Viktor Durasovic.
India's hopes of making a fightback depended on the doubles combination of Bhambri and Myneni, which has won six titles in the last year or so.
With senior doubles player Rohan Bopanna unavailable due to an injury, India had to depend on the Bhambri and Myneni but the duo got off to a poor start as Ruud and Durasovic won the first set.
The Indian pair lost its serve in the second game, but broke back immediately and levelled the score 2-2. But the Norwegians broke back again in the sixth game (4-2) and went on to win the set 6-3. The Indian pair had a lot of chances -- they had six break points but could convert only one -- but could not capitalise on them.
They won 80% of points on the first serve and were also ahead on points won on the second serve. The Norway pair converted two of the four break points while the Indians won one out of six.
The tables turned in the second set as the Norwegian pair failed to convert even one of the 14 break points they won while the Indians converted the lone break point to win the set 6-3.
Games went with serve till 3-2 in the second set before the Indians broke Ruud and Durasovic to go up 4-2.
In the decider, the Indians lost the plot after 1-1 as they lost their serve in the fourth game as they went down 3-1. The hosts then went ahead 4-1 and went on to win the third set 6-3 to seal the tie in Norway's favour.
India will now go back to qualifiers again and play against one of the winners of World Group 2 teams.