CHENNAI: Against winnable opposition, India have come up a cropper in a few Davis Cup ties over the last few years. Saying that, the hosts once again hold all the aces against Denmark in their two-day Davis Cup World Group I playoffs. The fast and low grass courts of the Delhi Gymkhana will favour the hosts who will be spearheaded by Ramkumar Ramanathan, the best player on show across both sides going by rankings.
That India has got the draw they wanted further tilts the advantage. Ramkumar, the world No 170, opens the tie against Christian Sigsgaard, the world No 824, who has only three tour level wins in his career. In the absence of Holger Rune (world No 88), this is a great chance for the Rohit Rajpal-led team to avoid dropping to World Group 2 for the first time ever.
"Ramkumar can hopefully get us off to a good start," captain Rajpal said. That's something the team has been wanting a last few years but the singles players they picked haven't delivered. Here's a small sample size. In September 2021, Prajnesh Gunneswaran lost to the lesser-ranked Otto Virtanen despite getting the draw they wanted. In March 2020, Gunneswaran, again facing the lesser-ranked Borna Gojo, lost. In fact, since the beginning of 2018, India have picked up an opening day point only once in five ties (Pakistan).
The other player who will be in action on Friday from an Indian perspective is Yuki Bhambri.
In terms of rankings, Bhambri maybe a lesser player when compared to Gunneswaran, but that doesn't take into consideration the myriad injury problems he has suffered. That's reflected in a startling stat: the 29-year-old, who reached a career-high of 83, hasn't featured in the Davis Cup since 2017 (Canada). Bhambri likely got the nod over Gunneswaran because the former likes playing on grass, it suits his style.
Against Mikael Torpegaard (305), Bhambri can break open the tie for the hosts. The 27-year-old Dane, who has a career-high of 166, has won only five tour-level matches but can be a tricky opponent.
On Saturday, Rohan Bopanna will team up with Divij Sharan before the reverse singles. Considering Ramkumar and Bopanna have won two doubles titles this year, the team management may have been justified in changing their doubles combination, but Rajpal didn't want to put undue pressure on the former.
“We are trying to take some pressure off Ramkumar," the captain explained. "He is coming on first tomorrow (Friday, then the second day too he will be on court after the doubles. We wanted to save him for singles, so that is why we put faith in this team.”
It's now time to repay that faith.
Ramkumar Ramanathan (World No 170) vs Christian Sigsgaard (824)
Yuki Bhambri (590) vs Mikael Torpegaard (305)
Rohan Bopanna (32)/ Divij Sharan (142) vs Johannes Ingildsen (557)/ Frederik Nielsen (98)
Ramkumar vs Torpegaard
Yuki vs Sigsgaard
From 11.00 am on Friday
*Nominations can be changed