Davis Cup: Ramkumar to play the first rubber

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman picks his name from the bowl

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the Davis Cup draw ceremony in New Delhi on Thursday.   -  V.V. Krishnan

The Union Minister of Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman, shuffled the bowl of tennis balls a few times, perhaps to the satisfaction of the Denmark team, and picked the name of Ramkumar Ramanathan to play the first rubber in the Davis Cup World Group play-off tennis tie at the Delhi Gymkhana Club on Thursday.

For the host, it was a big boost to have the No.1 player competing first as emphasised by captain Rohit Rajpal, but the Danish captain Frederik Nielsen dismissed that it was a mere formality and that his team was ready ‘’to be a handful for India’’, and that it did not matter who played the first rubber.

As Nielsen suggested, India is the favourite on many counts, and if the home fans turn up in big number to create a magical atmosphere, it could bolster the chances of the home team in a big way.

Captain Rohit Rajpal opted to go with Ramkumar and local boy Yuki Bhambri on the opening day, and play Rohan Bopanna with Divij Sharan in doubles in the first rubber on the second day, before the reverse singles.

Not allowing his new found status of being No.1 in the team affect his approach, Ramkumar stressed that it was a privilege to play for the country and that he was looking forward to win the first point for India.

Stating that his team had played a full-fledged Spain and that it was not in any way intimidated to play the second seeded India, captain Nielsen pointed out that his team would play good tennis and not worry about ranking or playing away from home on grass.

The Danish No.1 Mikael Torpegaard who will play Yuki in the second rubber on the opening day, pointed that he was not worried about the Indian slogan ‘’grass is green on our side’’, and joked that he was ‘’colour blind’’.

‘’I enjoy playing on grass’’, declared Torpegaard who served and volleyed with conviction during the one-hour practice session on the match-court.

Rohan Bopanna pointed out that in his 20-year experience in Davis Cup, he had learnt to adapt to situations, stay focused and stay positive to play his best.

‘’When the going gets tough, we have crowd support, which is a big factor in giving energy to the players’’, observed Bopanna.

Going by the sincere preparation of both the teams, and their fire power, it should be a lively contest over the next two days.

The fixtures

March 4: Ramkumar Ramanathan vs Christian Sigsgaard (11 a.m.); Yuki Bhambri vs Mikael Torpegaard.

March 5: Rohan Bopanna & Divij Sharan vs Frederik Nielsen & Johannes Ingildsen (10.30 a.m.); Ramkumar vs Torpegaard; Yuki vs Sigsgaard.

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