Davis Cup 2018: Serbia still a difficult proposition for India despite the absence of Novak Djokovic


The Indian crew is treading with quiet hope as they put together to sort out Serbia in Serbia within the Davis Cup World Group Playoff, beginning on Friday. Whereas the prospect of taking part in one of many greater groups within the tennis world on their least favorite floor – clay—is daunting, the guests have been thrown a lease of life when Serbia’s prime two singles gamers withdrew from the tie.

Just lately topped US Open champion Novak Djokovic won’t compete within the tie, which might be performed on indoor clay courts in Kraljevo, Serbia. Only some days forward of the competition, Filip Krajinovic, who’s at present ranked 33rd on the planet, additionally pulled out with a shoulder harm. Although having both would have closely tilted the scaled within the hosts’ favour, they’ve sufficient depth to nonetheless subject two top-100 gamers. In Djokovic’s absence, Dusan Lajovic (ranked 56) will spearhead the squad whereas Laslo Djere (86) would be the second singles gamers.

Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran might be tasked with profitable the singles rubber. AFP/Punit Paranjpe

They’re nonetheless ranked nicely forward of the Indian singles gamers: Ramkumar Ramanathan at 156 and Prajnesh Gunneswaran at 162.

Ramkumar will start the proceedings for India, in opposition to Djere, within the first singles rubber on Friday whereas the in-form Gunneswaran will tackle Lajovic. Doubles will as soon as once more be India’s ray of hope because the skilled Rohan Bopanna will crew up with N Sriram Balaji in opposition to the Serbian scratch pair of Nikola Milojevic and Danilo Petrovic. Whereas Milojevic has performed just one doubles rubber in Davis Cup, Petrovic might be making his Cup debut.

The Indian crew was additionally hit with accidents forward of the Serbia journey. Their top-ranked participant, Yuki Bhambri, who has been combating knee accidents for the reason that French Open, was compelled out. Divij Sharan, who lately gained the Asian Game gold medal with Bopanna, missed out on his Davis Cup debut due to a shoulder harm.

“We are going to miss them for positive,” stated India’s non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi. “However fortunately our depth throughout singles and doubles is now adequately about to cowl for them.”

“Enjoying a European crew on clay is at all times a problem since it isn’t a floor we like,” Bhupathi added. “Traditionally outcomes present this however Prajnesh and Ram can change that. We now have been practising right here on indoor clay since Sunday and are getting used to the circumstances. With Novak not taking part in, we really feel now we have an opportunity however now we have to play a really prime quality over three days.”

Within the Davis Cup, India hasn’t travelled nicely in latest instances. The final time they beat a European nation within the crew competitors was method again in 1996, after they defeated the Netherlands. And the final time they gained in Europe was in 1993, when Leander Paes’ win over the legendary Henri Leconte handed France a 3-2 shock defeat on clay in Frejus. Conscious of India’s weak spot on the floor, European rivals have laid out the pink dust for them frequently and it was no shock when Serbia opted for indoor clay as their alternative of floor for the September tie.

Nevertheless, the singles gamers that India will subject this time round aren’t any strangers to European clay. Ramkumar has been bred on the gradual clay courts in Spain and has the bodily attributes to final on it.

The 28-year-old Gunneswaran, who’s having the perfect 12 months of his profession, has a base in Germany and trains on the Schuettler-Waske Academy. Having misplaced 5 years to harm, Gunneswaran is having fun with the second wind and has taken huge strides on the tour this 12 months. He gained his greatest title — a $150,000 Challenger occasion in Anning, China in April and in addition claimed a singles bronze medal on the Asian Game. He made his presence felt within the Indian jersey when he squared up in opposition to teen sensation Yibing Wu within the fifth and deciding rubber throughout the zonal tie in opposition to China in April, and nervelessly sprinted to victory.

Ramkumar’s kind has been patchy, however he had an excellent run this summer season when he went all the way in which to the finals of the Newport ATP occasion, the primary Indian to take action in seven years.

Rankings hardly ever matter in Davis Cup ties. And although Lajovic and Djere are ranked within the top-100, neither of them will begin as overwhelming favourites in opposition to the Indians. The 28-year-old Lajovic has an 8-7 win-loss document in Davis Cups, whereas Djere remains to be searching for his first win in solely his third cap for Serbia. These numbers are sufficient to maintain the Indian crew hanging on to hope in opposition to Serbia, who’ve gained three of their 4 face to face ties.

It would even be one of many higher possibilities India has had within the World Group Playoffs. The crew has stumbled at that stage for 4 straight years now. They have been edged out by Serbia 3-2 in Bangalore in 2014, then have gone on to lose in opposition to Czech Republic (2015), Spain (2016) and Canada (2017) in Canada.

With the Davis Cup set for a revamp in 2019, India, or Serbia for that matter, will not get a direct entry into the World Group in the event that they win. In response to the brand new format, the winner might be one among 12 seeded groups within the Davis Cup qualifying spherical in February subsequent 12 months. The qualifying spherical will see 12 seeded — the 4 dropping quarter-finalists in 2018 (Belgium, Germany, Italy and Kazakhstan) and the eight winners of the 2018 World Group play-offs — go up in opposition to 12 unseeded groups, with the winners progressing to the Davis Cup Finals in November.

However that is a puzzle for one more day. The issue at hand is the way to break down the Serbians in Serbia, on what has traditionally been the least favorite floor for India.

Draw

Friday singles:

Rubber 1: Laslo Djere v Ramkumar Ramanathan

Rubber 2: Dusan Lajovic v Prajnesh Gunneswaran

Saturday doubles:

Rubber 3: Nikola Milojevic/Danilo Petrovic v Rohan Bopanna/N Sriram Balaji

Sunday singles:

Rubber 4: Dusan Lajovic v Ramkumar Ramanathan

Rubber 5: Laso Djere v Prajnesh Gunneswaran

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