CHENNAI: Serbia’s Laslo Djere gave the hosts the first point in the World Group play-offs against India on Friday. India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan began well but lost rhythm, especially when on serve, to lose the opening rubber 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (2), 2-6. The 23-year-old Djere, playing only his third match at this level, also played the bigger moments better by saving six of eight break points. Ramanathan’s game revolves around his big serve but it malfunctioned at the Kraljevo Sports Venue.
His first serve percentage was just 57 per cent (the Serb’s was higher by seven percentage points) and the 23-year-old Indian won points on only 62 per cent of his first serves. By comparison, Djere’s was at a healthy 78 per cent. The Chennai lad, who had won seven of 12 rubbers coming into the match, tried to break Djere’s stranglehold in the third and fourth sets by coming to the net — the Indian usually sticks to playing from the baseline — but that tactic just did not work on the indoor clay court. Out of the 38 times he came in, he lost out on 26 occasions.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran was up against Dusan Lajovic later on Friday. Lajovic won 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to put Serbia 2-0 ahead. Prajnesh had 64 unforced errors. The pair of Rohan Bopanna and N Sriram Balaji will face Danilo Petrovic and Nikola Milojevic in the doubles encounter on Saturday before the reverse singles on Sunday. However, it’s not all doom for Indians as Japan lead Bosnia- Herzegovina 2-0 in another playoff match. If Japan win this tie, Mahesh Bhupathi’s men will be assured of a place in February’s 24-team Davis Cup qualifying tournament. Australia, the other Asia/Oceania team in play-off action, trail Austria 0-2.
Japan in control
Japan took a commanding 2-0 lead against Bosnia and Herzegovina despite the absence of Kei Nishikori. With Nishikori unavailable for the hosts, World No 72 Taro Daniel put Japan in charge of the tie, crushing Tomislav Brkic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6. Yoshihito Nishioka punched above his weight in the second match as the World No 170 thrashed Mirza Basic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
CROATIA 2-0 AHEAD
Croatia raced to a commanding 2-0 lead over the United States in Zadar on Friday. In the first rubber Borna Coric, World No 18, justified his favourite’s tag and defeated Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3. Croatia’s top player and World No 6 Marin Cilic (in pic) then beat Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) to leave the hosts on the brink of the final.