Davis Cup: India expects an even fight against Finland

Even though India would be missing Sumit Nagal, busy playing a Challenger this week in Poland, coach Zeeshan Ali felt that the teams were evenly balanced.

Zeeshan Ali, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan and captain Rohit Rajpal at the Davis Cup venue, Espoo Metro Areena in Finland, on Tuesday.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The hopes of Finland are placed squarely on the shoulders of the 74th ranked Emil Ruusuvuori, for the Davis Cup World Group first-round tie against India, to be played on indoor hard courts at the Espoo Metro Areena, on September 17 and 18.

Even though India would be missing Sumit Nagal, busy playing a Challenger this week in Poland, coach Zeeshan Ali felt that the teams were evenly balanced, as the rest of the Finnish singles players do not have a rank in the top-400.

"We are missing Sumit as he would have given us more options if we wanted to switch players around. Our second singles player is ranked higher. So, it is pretty even. Doubles will be a very important match and could decide this tie, depending on the first-day results," opined Zeeshan Ali.

After training at the Smash tennis centre in Helsinki, the Indian team was training at the Espoo arena on Tuesday.

"It is 50-50 as of now. We will have clarity on strategy once we see the players train over the next few sessions," said the captain of the team, Rohit Rajpal.

"We are doing three sessions of two hours each today. I want to push the players hard on Wednesday also, easing up on Thursday, a day before the tie’’, said Zeeshan, quite keen to gauge the speed of the match court.

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While Prajnesh Gunneswaran (165) and Ramkumar Ramanathan (187) have been busy on the tour, Saketh has been training in Hyderabad, trying to get back into the circuit.

"Praj, Ram and Saketh are all timing the ball well. At this point, all three singles players are ready to play. A lot depends on the speed of the court. I am glad Saketh is here, as he has a big game and the experience of playing some big matches for India in the past. Ram is coming off a good tournament in France, where he reached the singles quarterfinals and won the doubles title. He is playing sharp. Prajnesh has also been playing a lot of matches the last few weeks. All our players have had a good amount of tournaments leading up to this tie and that is the best preparation," observed Zeeshan.

The other singles players of Finland, Otto Virtanen (423), Patrik Niklas-Salminen (489) and Harri Heliovaara (661) will be trying to capitalise on the home advantage.

Finland, of course, has a high-quality doubles player in Henri Kontinen, the former world No.1 and Australian Open champion, ranked 46 now. He could partner Ruusuvuori or the 76th doubles ranked Harri Heliovaara.

Asian Games champions Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan give the edge for India in doubles, as they have played together a fair share of matches.

The Finnish No.1 Ruusuvuori had beaten Prajnesh in three sets in the Washington ATP event last month.

"Our team is in good shape and the players are sharp," asserted Rohit Rajpal.

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