Davis Cup 2023 | India ready counter Holger Rune threat in tie against Denmark

Davis Cup 2023 | India ready counter Holger Rune threat in tie against Denmark

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When India plays Denmark in the Davis Cup Play-off match, which begins on Friday, it would be a herculean job for the side to retain its spot in World Group I. India doesn't have a single player ranked in top 300 and the presence of world No. 9 Rune will make the hosts strong favorites to win.

Hard courts will be used indoors for the match. The presence of 19-year-old Rune, who advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open last month and won three ATP championships in 2022, makes it a very different prospect from when India blanked Denmark 4-0 in Delhi in March 2022. In order to overcome Rune's influence, India has devised a clever plan and is focusing on underdogs August Holmgren (rated 484) and Elmer Moeller (ranked 718) in the Denmark camp.

The squad has chosen to start Yuki Bhambri on the first day as the second-ranked player in the nation so that Sumit Nagal may enter as the top player and try to eke out a victory on the first day. Despite his low ranking, Holmgren is a difficult opponent. He has already won an NCAA championship and will be a formidable opponent for the Indian squad.

The doubles match will be important, and Rohan Bopanna, who is a seasoned player, will need to use that expertise to guide the team. The Indian team has remained in World Group I since the new structure was implemented in 2019, but it would take a lot of effort to maintain that position. Prajnesh Gunneswaran (306), Ramkumar Ramanathan (412), and Sumit Nagal (509) are the three singles players on the playing team; Sasi Kumar Mukund is not included.

But it's hardly surprising that Rohit Rajpal, the team's captain, chose to start Bhambri. Although he no longer competes in the singles event on the ATP Tour, his skill on indoor courts (where elements like wind do not count) makes it tough to dismiss him. Nagal will take the field against Holmgren, while Yuki will face Rune in the opening match of the tie. The newly laid indoor court moves at a waist-height bounce and is a little sluggish.

Rajpal, the captain, and Zeeshan Ali, the coach, say that Nagal is the Indian team's best player right now. Nagal appeared to be in excellent shape when he lost the battle in Pune. "The waist-height bounce won't help us like the grass courts, the lower it is, the better it is for us. But still, it is better than those high-bounce courts. It suits them more and that's why they have prepared such a court where the home players can strike big," captain Rajpal told PTI.

"This tie we have 50-50 chance and I am looking for at least a 1-1 score on day one. Hope Yuki can produce something special." Coach Zeeshan explained the strategy.  "We wanted Sumit to play as our number one player so that he can play Denmark's second singles player on day one. The rankings of our players are such that it was possible only if Yuki or Rohan played as the second singles player, so it was Yuki," he said.

"We have played defensive in previous ties where we played against top players and it did not work. We had to do something different."

The coaching staff acknowledged that without a single player ranked in the top 300, the club is under pressure coming into the match. Bopanna and Yuki will compete in the doubles round on day two against Christien Sigsgaard and Johannes Ingildsen. On day two, though, the hosts can also field Rune if necessary.

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