The visitors are hoping to register their first victory of the campaign.
Team India started their 2020-21 Davis Cup campaign with a 1-3 defeat to Croatia in the qualifying round. They have now travelled to Espoo to take on Finland in a World Group I fixture. This is the first Davis Cup tie India are playing since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
A win will see Indian tennis players make the qualifiers of the Davis Cup in 2022, while a loss will see them drop into the play-offs zone of Group I. India is missing the services of their highest-ranked tennis player for this match, Sumit Nagal. He had earned praise for his performance at the Tokyo Olympics, when he beat Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 in the first round.
However, the Indian team started with back-to-back losses, and are now trailing 0-2 in the contest. Three decisive clashes will take place on Saturday, as the Indian team will hope to turn the tie around at the Espoo Metro Arena. Let’s take a look at the final three matches that will determine the outcome of this Davis cup tie.
Harri Heliovaara & Henri Kontinen Vs Rohan Bopanna & Divij Sharan
India’s Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali had stated that the doubles match could determine the outcome of the tie. One of India’s most experienced players, Rohan Bopanna will be partner Divij Sharan in the doubles matchup.
Now 41, Bopanna is still the highest-ranked doubles player in India and the most experienced Davis Cup player in the team. He had recently made it to the Round of 16 in men’s doubles at the 2021 US Open. Bopanna and his Croat partner Ivan Dodig went down 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 to eventual champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury. On the other hand, left-handed Divij Sharan has an incredible touch at the net and has prior experience of forming a formidable partnership with Bopanna.
They will be up against Henri Kontinen who is a former world No. 1. He has won Australian Open doubles and Wimbledon mixed doubles in his career. The 31-year-old played three of the four Grand Slams in 2021 with French partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin but paired with Harri Heliovaara for the US Open to build up the team chemistry for the Davis Cup tie against India.
Emil Ruusuvuori Vs Prajnesh Gunneswaran
Prajnesh Gunneswaran is India’s highest-ranked singles player on the ATP circuit. Having reached a career-high ranking of 75 in 2019, the 31-year-old has had a few injury setbacks in the last two seasons.
The 6’2″ left-hander has a big serve and forehand, which has seen him beat some top opponents in the past. He had squared up against Finland’s top ranked player Emil Ruusuvuori at the Citi Open in Washington in August. After qualifying for the main draw, the Indian lost 6-2, 1-6, 1-6 in the first round.
On Friday, Gunneswaran tasted defeat to lower-ranked Otto Virtanen 3-6, 6-7. The 22-year-old Ruusuvuori will be an even tougher test for the Indian. Ranked 74th in the world, the Finn had defeated world No. 8 and 2020 US Open champion Dominic Theim at the 2019 Davis Cup. The Finnish tennis star also beat the world No. 4 and reigning Olympic champion, Alexander Zverev, in the second round of the 2021 Miami Open. Thus, Prajnesh Gunneswaran will have his task cut out against Emil Ruusuvuori.
Otto Virtanen Vs Ramkumar Ramanathan
Ramkumar Ramanathan has good experience of featuring in singles matches in the Davis Cup for India. The 26-year-old had come agonizingly close to qualifying for his first major at Wimbledon in 2021. Ramanathan lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 9-11 to Marc Polmans of Australia in the final round of qualifying.
The Indian has gained some momentum in the past few weeks as he has had some good results in ATP Challenger events and qualified for the Washington ATP tournament as well. However, on the opening day, Ramanathan lost 4-6, 5-7 to Emil Rusuuvuori. He will face the challenge of the 20-year-old Otto Virtanen next in the final match of the tie. Ranked 419th in the world, Virtanen primarily features in the ITF and the Challenger circuits.