Espoo (Finland). Rohan Bopanna and Ramkumar Ramanathan lost in a do or die doubles match on Saturday as India lost the Davis Cup World Group 1 match 1-3 against Finland. Captain Rohit Rajpal changed the doubles pair in the last minute to field Bopanna with Ramkumar instead of Divij Sharan. This also did not help India and in this crucial match, the pair of Bopanna and Ramkumar lost to Henry Kontinen and Harry Heliovara 6-7, 6-7 in consecutive sets in one hour and 38 minutes.
Both Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar had lost their singles matches on Friday, leaving the Indians to win doubles matches to stay in the match. Both reverse singles were again insignificant. Prajnesh later defeated Patrick Niklas Salminen 6–3 7–5 in the fourth match, while the fifth match was not played. India will now play in the play-offs next year to retain their place in the World Group 1.
In the doubles match, Heliovara was considered the weakest of the four players on the court but he improved his game manifold and influenced the outcome of the match. Bopanna said the Finnish players benefited from the experience of playing top-class matches as a pair. He said, ‘We were playing together for the first time at this level. It made a difference in close points but we played a good match as we were playing together for the first time.
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Bopanna, 40, backed the captain’s decision to change his partner. He also said that India need to do well in singles matches as well only then the team can win the Davis Cup match. Bopanna said, ‘Four points are for singles matches, that is where we need to focus. For six years no Indian player has defeated a player of higher rank than him in Davis Cup.
In the doubles match, when the Indian pair had maintained the lead, it lost it. He lost four break points in eight games in the second set. Whereas winning in these would have given them a chance to put pressure on the host pair. After a 3-3 draw in the first set, the Indian pair displayed aggression on Heliovara’s serve but took advantage of Ramkumar’s double fault and a volley mistake in the net to win the Finnish pair after the set tie-breaker.
In the second set too, Bopanna lost his serve due to frequent uncomfortable mistakes. The set also reached a tie-breaker, with Finland’s Halovara scoring the first match point at 5-2 with a brilliant forehand and Ramkumar failing to return in the next point as Finland took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the match. Prajnesh lost to a lower-ranked player on Friday while Ramkumar also suffered a loss in the second singles.
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In the first match on Friday, world-ranked 165th-ranked Prajnesh suffered a 3-6, 6-7 loss to lower-ranked player Otto Wirtanen (ranked 419th) in a match that lasted one hour and 25 minutes. Ramkumar Ramanathan (ranked 187) presented a tough challenge to Finnish number one Emil Rusuvuori in the second match but he lost 4-6 5-7 to the world ranked 74th-ranked player.
India had a good draw with Prajnesh playing a lower ranked player but Wirtanen won an easy victory. Ramkumar made some efforts to overcome the challenge of his opponent but he could not bring India on par. Prajnesh’s defeat was quite disappointing as he had a less experienced player in front of him who had won only one Davis Cup match before.
After losing serve in the sixth game, Ramkumar made a quick comeback playing cleverly. He surprised his opponent and collected good points. In the tenth game, he trailed 0-40 on his serve to stay in the first set but lost it when a backhand shot went outside.
In the second set, Rusuvuori gave a befitting reply to Ramkumar’s strategy and put up the pressure with some brilliant winners. Then both the players were tied at 5-5 but Rusuvuori strengthened his game and hit lifeful strokes. He got his first match point with a brilliant cross winner at 40-40 but Ramkumar saved it by keeping himself in control. But the Indian player soon made a double fault, giving Rusuvuori his second match point, on which he won the match with a backhand winner.
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