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                                       En route 
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Gothenburg

                                                         By

                                               Ramesh Krishnan

           In October 1987, India entered the finals of the Davis Cup tournament – for only the third time ever – defeating reigning champions Australia.

          In the semi-final tie, 26-year old Ramesh Krishnan clinched the issue, winning the fifth and final match, after the first two matches went evenly to the two sides.

          By the time this article appears in print, the finals between India and Sweden will have been decided. Whatever the outcome, India’s epic struggle to the finals will long be remembered.

          In this article – exclusively for INDIA DIGEST – Ramesh Krishnan makes his debut as a writer, recapitulating for our readers how India made it to the finals. 

          “Game, set and match for India. India beats Australia by three matches to two.” This was a thrilling moment for those of us present in Sydney on the fourth of October. The win over Australia has given us a place against Sweden in the finals of the Davis Cup to be played in Gothenburg.
          This is only the third time that India has made it to the finals of this competition. In 1966 India lost in the finals to Australia, and in 1974 we refused to compete against South Africa in the finals because of political considerations.
          The Davis Cup competition was started in 1900 between the United States of America and England. In the early years, very few countries competed, but by the middle of the century, Davis Cup competition became a very important part of the tennis world.
          Subsequent years have seen new nations participating in it. It is now an international event being playing in all the continents of the world.
          Playing for your country is indeed a very unique experience. I am glad to be part of it. Before the tie begins, both teams line up on court and the national anthems are played. This becomes a very emotional moment.
          You can feel a lump in our throat, and your knees feel weak as you prepare for the match. In Davis Cup matches you are referred to, not by your name, but by the name of your country. This certainly adds drama to the occasion.
          Our heroics for this year almost ended before it got started. We were drawn to play Argentina in the first round. Fortunately, India had the choice of ground.
          The tie was held on grass courts in New Delhi. The Argentinians were a promising young team who lacked experience on grass courts. This tilted the balance in our favour; yet we barely managed to win the tie. On the final day, Argentina led India by two matches to one.
          In the fourth match, Vijay Amritraj had his back to the wall against Martin Jaite. At one stage, he was just one point away from defeat, but fought back to win the match. I managed to win the final match against Horacio De La Pena to send us into the second round.
          While we were busy tackling Argentina, Israel upset Czechoslovakia. We received this news with mixed feelings. On the one hand Israel was the easier team to play against, but on the other, India had refused sporting contacts with Israel in the past.
          It seemed as if India might have to default in this tie. This would have kept us out of  the Davis Cup competition for at least three years. The matter went up to the Prime Minister who decided we should host the Israelis.
          The tie against Israel was held – once again in New Delhi – between July 24 and 26. Very elaborate security measures were taken to ensure the safety of both the teams. I had never been involved in such a situation before. Security men wielding guns formed a large part of the audience. However, it was a definite triumph of sports over politics.
          Once the tie commenced, it proved to be anti-climactic. The Israelis could not adapt to the stifling heat of Delhi in July, and were half-beaten before they took to the courts. We beat what was left of them without much ado.
          The win over Israel earned us a trip to the land “down under” to take on Australia, led by the current Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. We had the task of challenging the defending champions in their own backyard. The tie was held in Sydney from October 2 to 4.
          On the eve of the tie, Cash withdrew due to a knee injury. All of a sudden we were there with an even chance of winning the tie. On October 2 both Vijay Amritraj and I won close matches to put us up two-nil. The Australian fought back to level at two-all. In the final match, I had an exciting win over Wally Masur, gaining us a place in the finals.
          Our matches against Australia were viewed live in India for the first time. Within an hour of or victory messages poured in from home. We were thrilled to receive messages from the Prime Minister and the President of India.
          This tie was played in front of a sell-out crowd. The audience was very enthusiastic and appreciative of our good play. It was vintage Davis Cup experience! Unfortunately, for our home matches we have not been able to attract sufficiently large crowds. I hope a win like this will trigger off new enthusiasm for tennis in India.
          Now we are on or way to Gothenburg (Sweden) to take on the mighty Swedes. We will prepare hard to give off our best. This had already been a memorable year. We hope to have a warm December in Sweden.

(Excerpted from INDIA DIGEST No. 4 - Jan.-Feb. 1988)  

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