India springs a surprise on Croatia in Davis Cup qualifiers

The Indian team has taken the decision of shielding its highest-ranked singles player Sumit Nagal from the opening round of the Davis Cup qualifiers against Croatia.

Leander Paes

Leander Paes will partner Rohan Bopanna for the doubles match in the Davis Cup tie against Croatia.    -  R. Ragu

The Indian team sprang a surprise on Croatia by shielding the No.1 player Sumit Nagal, at least on the opening day, of the Davis Cup World Group qualifier to be played on indoor hard courts in Zagreb.

Thus, in the opening rubber, the 132nd ranked Prajnesh Gunneswaran will play the 277th ranked Borna Gojo. That match will be followed by the 182nd ranked Ramkumar Ramanathan challenging the former world No.3 Marin Cilic, who had helped Croatia win the trophy in 2018.

"It is our strategy for the tie, and in the best interest of the team. The team is on the same page. It is not about individuals", said the captain of the Indian team, Rohit Rajpal, after the draw.

India will field Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes for the doubles against Franko Skugor and Mate Pavic.

It may be recalled that the 46-year-old Leander had won three matches in India’s shock victory over Croatia in 1995 when he tamed a volatile Goran Ivanisevic in five sets. It was the only meeting
between the two teams in Davis Cup.

"It is a big honour to represent the country and a big responsibility. I am looking forward to playing with Rohan. We have had some good wins", said Leander.

On his part, Bopanna said that playing Davis Cup always meant, "playing with a big heart and playing to win’’ and that he was looking forward to playing his friends on the professional tour.

Ramkumar was happy to get the opportunity and said that he was confident of playing his best.

"I am really happy and excited. The conditions are good for me", said Ramkumar.

The 127th ranked Sumit Nagal may have been kept out but could get into the tie, if required, as there is a provision of change of players.

The matches will be played on a best of three sets format.

The draw

March 6: Borna Gojo vs Prajnesh Gunneswaran; Marin Cilic vs Ramkumar Ramanathan.

March 7: Mate Pavic & Franko Skugor vs Rohan Bopanna & Leander Paes; Marin Cilic vs Prajnesh Gunneswaran; Borna Gojo vs Ramkumar Ramanathan.