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Davis Cup: Rohit Rajpal Blames Absence of Players for India's Defeat to Finland

·4-min read

The Indian Davis Cup team’s non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal on Saturday blamed availability of a small pool of players, due to injuries to key singles players, as the reason for his team’s 1-3 defeat to Finland in the World Group 1 First Round encounter at Espoo, Finland on Saturday.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran, the world No 165, lost to Finland’s Otto Virtanen, a player ranked 419 in the list, in straight sets while Ramkumar Ramanathan went down against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuor similarly as India trailed 0-2 at the end of the first day of the two-day encounter.

Their hopes depended on the doubles match involving World No 44 Bopanna, who was paired with Ramkumar instead of doubles specialist Divij Sharan, in a tactical switch by Rajpal and coach Zeeshan Ali after a discussion with the team. But that move was not successful as Bopanna-Ramkumar lost in two tiebreakers to the experienced Finnish pair of Harri Heliovaara and Henri Kontinen, thus ending India’s hopes of advancing to the next round.

Rajpal said the absence due to injury of Yuki Bhambri and Sumit Nagal, who withdrew citing a hip injury, limited his options in the singles.

“I did not have a larger pool of players available to try out different things. I had to go with what we had and make the best of it,” he said on Saturday.

Rajpal said India will need some fresh pair of legs if it has to do well in the Davis Cup.

“As a captain, you would like to have a larger pool of players to pick from but unfortunately Yuki Bhambri is not available. I think if he was here it would have been a tougher match for sure. Also Sumit Nagal was not here. I think going forward, we need to go to the drawing board a bit. You know even in doubles. I was talking to Rohan and he said that the fact that he has to play at 40 means that the younger guys are not pushing them enough out of their places.

“I think we need to go back to the drawing board and look at the next bunch of the guys and the next bunch of guys behind them to see how we can regroup and come back as you see the game is getting tougher and tougher. We need better strategies, better (younger) players coming up so that’s the game plan. We need to go back to the drawing board,” he said at a virtual press conference after the match,” said Rajpal.

He said India was on the backfoot once Prajnesh lost the opening match on Friday.

“I think we lost momentum in the first match. We were kind of hoping to win the first match and take it from there. It would have been a different scenario if we had won that but we kind of lost little momentum and that kind of held us back. Overall Otto set the pace for them, he played completely out of his mind. We did not expect him to come out and play like this, he barely missed a ball and hit so many winners that gave the Finnish team good momentum,” said Rajpal of the match.

Asked if would have done something different in hindsight, the Indian captain said maybe he would have put Ramkumar against Otto in the first match. “It’s easy to talk in hindsight but not so easy to do so on court considering the way those guys were playing. They played fantastic tennis and they played better tennis than us and deserved to win. We had our chances right out in the first match, we had chances in the second match. Today in the doubles also we had our chances. At this level, if you have your chances and don’t do anything, the other player takes it away very quickly.

Had I got another, I would maybe turn things around and I would have probably got Ram to play in the first match against Otta. He would have troubled him quite a bit, I know that. I think the style of Prajnesh’s play suited Otto very much. So I would have done the combination the opposite way,” he added.

Regarding the change in the doubles lineup, Rajpal said after the first two matches, the feedback from the players was that the court was not helping the serve much and therefore they decided to pair Ramkumar with Bopanna as he has a flatter serve as compared to Divij Sharan who likes to spin it a lot.

But in the end, even that did not work for India as Bopanna and Ramkumar went down in the doubles match.

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