Bereft of its top players, India risk losing the Asia|Oceania Group I tie against Korea as the hosts conceded a 0-2 lead on opening day after debutants V M Ranjeet and Vijayant Malik suffered contrasting defeats in their singles matches, here today.
It was a forgettable debut for 27-year-old Ranjeet as he was trounced 1-6 0-6 1-6 in an hour and 23 minutes in the first singles of the first-round tie at the R K Khanna Tennis stadium.
The onus to bring India back in the tie was on the 22-year-old Malik and he fought his heart out but lacked fitness to meet the challenge as he conceded the second singles against Korean No 1 Suk-Young Jeong.
Malik was trailing 4-6 5-7 0-3 against Jeong, ranked 216 places above him at 321st the match, when cramps in his left leg took the fizz out of his challenge.
Leander Paes, the only top player in the hosts line-up, and Purav Raja will now take on Yong-Kyu Lim and Ji Sung Nam
in the must-win doubles rubber tomorrow.
India missed its top players badly, specially Somdev Devvarman, as the slow surface required fit players like him who could wear out their rivals.
Somdev, who has the amazing ability of staying in, was the ideal player on this court and his absence was felt.
However, unlike Ranjeet, Malik took the fight into the rival camp, fighting fire with fire. He refused to be dominated by the superior rival and threw everything he had in his arsenal.
His fierce double-handed backhand, stinging serve and a few calculated lobs meant that Korean had to earn points.