Ramkumar Ramanathan put up a brilliant performance against the former US Open champion and World No.3 Marin Cilic, but it was Croatia which led 2-0 on the opening day of the Davis Cup World Group qualifier tie on the indoor hard court in Zagreb on Friday.
In the excitement of battle, 25-year-old Ramkumar looked to have a lost a little bit of concentration in the extended tie-break in the first set, even as he questioned the long-bouncing routine of the Croat before each serve. Davis Cup ties don't use the shot clock in Davis Cup unlike in the regular ATP circuit or Grand Slams, and thus Cilic got away.
In the process, Ramkumar lost his grip over the match as he delivered his first double fault of the match on break point in the tie-break.
Unperturbed by the loss of initiative in the gripping battle, Ramkumar did play strong through the second set, before Cilic asserted his class. In fact, Cilic could have been down 2-4 in the second set, if his challenge on breakpoint in the sixth game hadn't been successful.
He may have beaten Dominic Thiem of Austria some years ago on the ATP Tour, and Ramkumar may not be used to playing top players, but he seemed quite at home against Cilic who was playing before a home crowd.
Prajnesh loses to Gojo
Earlier in the day, Borna Gojo broke through the Indian plans with his explosive serves and energetic play as he put Croatia 1-0, by beating Prajnesh Gunneswaran 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Gojo wound up the match, which lasted for about two hours, with two of his nine aces in the match. Prajnesh who converted three of nine breakpoints, and won 91 points in the match, one more than the 22-year-old Croat, did play strong in the entertaining contest, but missed his chances.
Backed by a traditionally patriotic crowd, Gojo was athletic on court and played an inspired game to nose ahead. He converted four of 14 break points, that turned the tide in Croatia’s favour.
India's strategy focused on the second singles player of Croatia, as former world No.3 Marin Cilic, who had helped Croatia win the Davis Cup trophy in 2018, was considered too much of a power house for the Indian squad which does not have a player in the top-100.
The second day of the tie will feature the doubles and the two reverse singles fixtures.
- Lee Chong Wei ‘feels like giving up’ on Malaysian badminton
- AFCON 2024: Ivory Coast rewards Fae after unlikely African Cup of Nations triumph
- England coach McCullum backs struggling Bairstow to come good
- UEFA Champions League: Free-scoring Arsenal want to win it all says Martin Odegaard
- Rio Open: Defending champ Norrie moves into second round