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'Underdogs' India look to upset Croatia in Davis Cup Qualifiers

The hosts will be led by world number 37 Marin Cilic and the 2014 US Open champion is only top-50 singles player in their ranks.

PTI PTI
ZAGREB, Croatia Published on: March 05, 2020 15:16 IST
File image of Sumit Nagal
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

File image of Sumit Nagal

A full-strength India, led by Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh Gunneswaran, will take on Croatia in the Davis Cup Qualifiers with a realistic chance of upsetting the top seeds here from Friday.

The hosts will be led by world number 37 Marin Cilic and the 2014 US Open champion is only top-50 singles player in their ranks.

The absence of their best-ranked player Borna Coric (33rd) means that Nagal and Prajnesh can go after their second singles player Borna Gojo, who is yet to win a match in the Davis Cup.

Getting two points from Gojo is very much possible for the visitors, considering that he is placed 277th in the ATP rankings chart, which is below the two Indian singles players.

Both Nagal (127) and Prajnesh (132) are capable of beating Gojo though they have not competed against him as yet.

Prajnesh, who missed the last tie because of his marriage, admitted that the lack of a strong second singles player in rival line-up could work to India's advantage.

"We are hoping to come with our A game. We definitely have a better chance (in absence of Borna Coric) and hopefully we can capitalise on that. The hard indoor courts suit us," said Prajnesh.

Ramkumar Ramanathan is set to be benched since Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna will most likely play the doubles rubber.

The doubles will be a crucial match in the tie, the winner of which will qualify for the year-end Davis Cup Finals, to be held in November in Madrid.

It could be the last tie for the 46-year-old Paes who had said that 2020 is his final season as professional. Bidding adieu to the Davis Cup on a winning note will be a high point since he is already the most successful doubles player in the history of the tournament.

India have not won an away tie against a strong opponent for a long time and it seems to be their best chance. They lost to Serbia (2018) and Canada (2017), missing out on World Group qualification.

"We certainly have a chance in this tie. If we get one singles in the bag on Friday, anything can happen. But it's difficult to swing back if we are lose 0-2 on the first day," India's non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal told PTI.

"The Croatians are not taking us lightly. They have been watching our sessions. They are big boys, have been around. The courts are medium-paced with low bounce, which suits us," he added.

"We have been told that it's a new facility. The Croatian team is very popular since they have been champions. The locals will throng the stadium, cheering for them. We are going as underdogs and I like it like that way," he said.

The last time the two sides competed against each other, India won 3-2 in New Delhi in 1995 on grass courts.

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