CHENNAI: The two-day India vs Finland Davis Cup World Group first-round match begins next Friday. A depleted visitors — sans Sumit Nagal and Sasikumar Mukund — will start slight underdogs against the hosts, who have nominated the likes of Emil Ruusuvuori (singles World No 66) and Henri Kontinen (doubles World No 45). However, Nagal will likely be in action in the same week as the Davis Cup.
His name is there in the entry list of the Pekao Challenger, a tournament beginning on September 13. Nagal had originally withdrawn from Davis Cup duties, citing a hip injury. He did so on the basis of a doctor’s advice saying he could aggravate his injury if he played on hard courts.
However, the World No 164 has been playing on the circuit since he cited his hip injury in a letter to the All India Tennis Association (AITA). He has turned up at the Como Challenger (August last week) as well as the Banja Luka Challenger (this week). Both were on clay.
It’s not gone down well with AITA. “I’m here in Finland without three of my best singles players,” captain Rohit Rajpal told this daily. “There’s no Yuki Bhambri, Nagal and Mukund.” While the former is nursing an injury, the 24-year-old Nagal seems to be prioritising picking up maximum points over the Davis Cup.
However, that is a very understandable move. It’s something that’s been done by a lot of players of other countries as well, especially ones who are ranked outside the top 100. With the season coming to a close in two months, year-end targets have to be met. And finishing inside the top 100 is an important goal if Nagal is to make the automatic cut for the Australian Open early next year.
After Nagal had withdrawn, AITA had asked Mukund for his availability but the World No 325 replied in the negative. “We did ask the likes of Mukund before selecting Saketh Myneni for the squad,” AITA selection committee chairman, Nandan Bal, had told this daily last month.
As for the tie itself, Rajpal doesn’t expect an easy ride. “They are a very strong side,” he said. “They do have one top-100 singles player. Apart from that, they have Henri Kontinen, who is a former World No 1 in doubles. So it’s going to be a tough test, no doubts about it.” On whether he has decided on the combinations for the tie, he said: “It’s too early. Will take a call on it closer to the tie.”