Know your team: India’s Davis Cup squad for the tie against Finland
India will resume their Davis Cup campaign with a World Group I tie against Finland in Espoo beginning on Friday.
This will be the team’s first team competition weekend since the pandemic began last year. India had gone down 1-3 to Croatia in the World Group qualifiers in March 2020 before Covid-19 forced the Davis Cup schedule to be postponed.
Even though Finland is not a traditional tennis powerhouse, they have a strong squad on paper. Their No 1 singles player, Emil Ruusuvuori, is the highest-ranked player in either side at 66. Also, Finland, like India, have two doubles players ranked in the top-100 – World No 46 Henri Kontinen and World No 76 Harri Heliovaara. The Finnish team will also have the home-court advantage as their will host India on the indoor hard courts of Espoo Metro Areena over two days.
As India prepare for Scandinavian challenge, here’s a closer look at the squad:
Singles ranking: 165
Davis Cup record: 2-5
2021 record: 14-22
Prajnesh Gunneswaran is India’s highest-ranked singles player on the ATP (men’s pro) circuit. Having reached a career-high of 75 in 2019, the year he played all the four majors, Prajnesh has been set back by a few injury concerns in the last two seasons.
The 6’2 left-handed player has a big serve and forehand, which have seen him beat some top-100 opponents in the past.
He squared up against Finland’s No 1 player Emil Ruusuvuori at the ATP 500 event in Washington last month. After qualifying for the main draw, the Indian lost 6-2, 1-6, 1-6 in the round of 64.
Singles ranking: 187
Davis Cup record: 8-8
2021 record: 33-21
The 26-year-old is the most experienced singles Davis Cup player in the squad. Having made his debut in 2016, he has compiled a win-loss record of 8-8. Ramkumar is a very handy doubles player as well and won an ATP Challenger doubles title in Cassis, France (with Sriram Balaji) last weekend.
He had come agonizingly close to qualifying for his first major at 2021 Wimbledon. Ramkumar lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 9-11 to Australia’s Marc Polmans 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.
Singles ranking: 573
Davis Cup record: 4-4
2021 record: 5-1
Saketh Myneni was drafted into the team after India No 2 Sumit Nagal backed out of the tie in Finland.
Having come through the US college circuit, Myneni had a decent run on the tour a few years ago and even qualified for the US Open in 2016. But injury concerns have derailed his career.
The 33-year-old is a versatile player and can fill in if India loses a singles or doubles player to injury.
Doubles ranking: 44
Davis Cup record: 21-25
2021 record: 11-19
At 41, Bopanna is the highest-ranked doubles player in India and the most experienced Davis Cupper in the team.
He made his Davis Cup debut in 2002 and has pulled off some memorable wins in the men’s team competition: he defeated Japan’s Kei Nishikori 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 in 2008 and in 2014, in the company of Leander Paes, scored in improbable win over Serbia in doubles after being 0-2 down.
Bopanna made it to the round of 16 in men’s doubles at the 2021 US Open. He, and partner Ivan Dodig, went down 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 to eventual champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Saisbury.
Doubles ranking: 86
Davis Cup record: 2-0
2021 record: 9-23
Divij Sharan will team up with Bopanna for the doubles rubber against Finland. The left-handed player has an incredible touch at the net and has, in the past, formed a formidable partnership with Bopanna on the tour. The duo won the Maharashtra Open in 2019 and have a 2-0 record in Davis Cup.
Bopanna and Sharan had won India’s only point during the World Group qualifiers tie against Italy, which India lost 1-3, in Kolkata in 2019.
Even though the 35-year-old from New Delhi has played only two Davis Cup matches he has a lot of experience and has been India’s No 2 doubles player on the tour for a while.