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Net loss: Unhappy trend for Indians

There is no shame in losing to superior players but unless the country corrects this trend, results like the one against Finland will keep happening. 

Published: 20th September 2021 07:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th September 2021 07:27 AM   |  A+A-

Indian tennis star Prajnesh Gunneswaran

Indian tennis star Prajnesh Gunneswaran (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Death, taxes and India’s singles players losing against higher-ranked opponents in Davis Cup ties. There is no shame in losing to superior players but unless the country corrects this trend, results like the one against Finland will keep happening. 

That problem is exacerbated because they are still prone to losing against lower-ranked opponents. That scenario played itself out on Friday afternoon when Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who was relied upon to bring home the first point against Otto Virtanen, went down in straight sets. 

Gunneswaran himself has been part of this pattern before. In Croatia in March 2020, the then World No 132 was playing Borno Gojo (then World No 277) away from home. The Indian went down and the chance for a famous victory went. This isn’t to single out the 31-year-old, who had a famous Davis Cup moment in his debut encounter against China in 2018. 

It is just a part of a wider issue that’s preventing the men from advancing into the expanded Finals. A look at the numbers make for grim reading if you are an Indian tennis fan. Since 2015, they have won once while playing a higher-ranked opponent (Somdev Devvarman against Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely). 

That multiple members of the Indian contingent, following the loss on Saturday, alluded to this point is an indication that the management are aware of this. “End of the day, four points comes from singles,” Rohan Bopanna, part of the doubles team that went down in the third match, said. “I think it’s been six years since an Indian last beat a higher-ranked singles player. We need that to change. We need to have a good structure home, good programmes, good support system.”

Captain Rohit Rajpal was even more intimate in his assessment. “I didn’t even have a huge pool of players available to me to try out different things,” he said. “As a captain, you would like to have a larger pool of players to pick from. (...) going forward, we ned to go back to the drawing board a bit. Even in doubles, I was talking to Rohan and we felt that the younger guys are not pushing him.

We need to look at the next bunch of guys and see how we can regroup and come back. As you can see, the game is getting tougher and tougher. We need to have better strategies, better players. So that’s the game plan.” Easier said than done. Even though the likes of Yuki Bhambri and Sumit Nagal didn’t make the trip, there isn’t a single top-100 player in the country. Till that changes, expect the same situation — losing in Davis Cup matches — to play itself out over and over again. 

India now stare at the very real prospect of being relegated into Group (they are now in the Group I playoffs) 2, a place where they haven’t been since in the 1980s. 

Grim reading

  •  India failed to advance to the Finals playoffs for the first time since 2013 
  •  Last time an Indian player beat a higher-ranked opponent in Davis Cup was in 2015
  •  Players from 42 countries are higher-ranked before the first Indian in the list (Prajnesh)
     

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