India will face a stern test when they will face two-time champions Croatia in their Davis Cup World Group qualifier in Zagreb next month. With eyes to secure a berth in the World Group, 2018 champions Croatia might opt for the services of their top singles players – former world number three Marin Cilic and rising star Borna Coric – versus India. This will be India’s seventh appearance in as many years in the qualifier stages of the elite team competition (Davis Cup).
Croatia, who won the title in 2018 beating France in Lille, are once again expected to be led by 2014 US Open winner Cilic. However, there is still no clarity over the doubles field despite boasting of three players ranked inside the Top 20 – Ivan Dodig, Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic.
“We can confirm that our team captain Vedran Martic expects to have the same team we had against France in the 2018 Davis Cup finals in Lille,” Igor Rajkovic, the press officer at the Croatian Tennis Association was quoted by The Indian Express on Wednesday. “It means the singles rubbers should be contested by Borna Coric and Marin Cilic.
“It is still unclear who will be nominated for the doubles match, as Croatia has three players ranked in the Top 20 as of this week – Ivan Dodig, Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic. The official nomination will be published 10 days before the tie.”
In 2018 Davis Cup final, the 31-year-old Cilic defeated Lucas Pouille in straight sets to grab the decisive victory for Croatia.
Going by Rajkovic’s word – Croatia are most likely to field former world no. 12 Coric (currently ranked 31) and 2018 Australian open finalist Cilic (currently ranked 37). For the doubles event, Dodig, the world no. 10, is the highest-ranked player from the Balkan country in contention for the tie, along with no. 15 Pavic (former world no. 1).
Last week, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) announced a six-member India squad for the tie against Croatia, scheduled to be played on indoor hard court in Zagreb on March 6 and 7.
The team will have India’s top singles player – Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan for the singles rubber. The doubles field will be led by veteran ace Leander Pace, Rohan Bopanna and world number 56 – Divij Sharan.
Rohit Rajpal continues as the captain of the team while Zeeshan Ali will be the coach. Earlier, Rajpal was expected to be the captain only for the tie against Pakistan.
In their last Davis Cup tie (Asia-Oceanic Group 1), India blanked arch-rivals Pakistan 4-0 in Nur-Sultan to advance to the World Group Qualifying round.