India face Holger Rune’s Denmark in Davis Cup playoff

India take on Denmark in a playoff tie to stay in the World Group 1 stage of the Davis Cup starting on Friday. The Indian team lost 1-3 in their World Group 1 tie against Norway last year, forcing them into a playoff to keep their place at this stage.

India have managed to keep their place in World Group 1 ever since the new Davis Cup format came into effect in 2019. This time last year, they had to go through a playoff against Denmark only, thrashing them 4-0 on the grass courts of the Gymkhana Club in New Delhi.

However, that was a Danish team without Holger Rune, whose remarkable ascent in global tennis has led to him reaching as high as World No. 9 at present. The 19-year-old also won the Paris Masters, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final, in October.

Bolstered by the home crowd in Hillerod, Denmark, in favourable conditions on indoor hard courts, Rune will have the upper hand, tipping the scales in Denmark’s favour. He will open the tie against Yuki Bhambri on Friday. India will, however, hope to prevail in the other rubbers, especially in singles against Danish No. 2 August Holmgren, who takes on Sumit Nagal on the second day.

Nagal, whose 2022 season was derailed due to injury, is the last Indian singles player to have played in the main draw of a Grand Slam. By entrusting him with the crucial fixture, non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal and coach Zeeshan Ali have decided that he remains India’s best hope in singles.

India slumped to a disappointing defeat in Norway, and despite playing another top-10 singles player in Casper Ruud, they would feel like they missed an opportunity to at least take it deep, by losing the doubles tie. That faith would be renewed thanks to the return of veteran Rohan Bopanna, fresh off a run to the Australian Open mixed doubles final with Sania Mirza, who played a pivotal role in India’s win in New Delhi last year.

Bopanna will partner Bhambri in doubles, and open the day’s play on Saturday. If the need arises for a fourth match, the two countries’ premier singles players, Nagal and Rune, will clash after the doubles.

Both Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan remain in India’s ranks and can be subbed in for a last-minute change. Denmark’s decision to leave Rune out of the doubles may change if the tie is 1-1 going into the match, which could lead to Ramanathan replacing Bhambri as Bopanna’s partner. Either one of the duo could also be called upon for a potential tie-breaking fifth match on Saturday.


Friday, February 3: Holger Rune vs Yuki Bhambri; August Holmgren vs Sumit Nagal
Saturday, February 4: Johannes Ingildsen/Christian Sigsgaard vs Yuki Bhambri/Rohan Bopanna; Rune vs Nagal; Holmgren vs Bhambri.

The matches will be telecast live on DD Sports starting 8.30pm on both days.

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