190312 Prajnesh Gunneswaran
Prajnesh Gunneswaran Image Credit: ATP

Dubai: Prajnesh Gunneswaran, one of India’s mainstay in the singles, is confident the nation can gain an entry into the main competition when they play Croatia in Zagreb for the 2020 Davis Cup Finals by Rakuten on March 6-7.

Top seed Croatia will play India in the qualifiers with the winners booking their place at the main competition of the Davis Cup by Rakuten to be held in Madrid in November.

First held in 1900, the 109th edition of the fourth oldest tennis competition between national teams in the men’s will be played under an altered format for the first time this season. The new format will see the creation of a Davis Cup World Group I and World Group II which will be played on a worldwide basis and replace the regional Group I and Group II.

Termed the ‘World Cup of Tennis’, the Davis Cup is run by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique’s Kosmos Holding since last year. One of the main modifications since 2019 is that the World Group will take place in one location within one week between 18 teams divided into six round-robin groups.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran in action against Dennis Novak at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on 25th February, 2020. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News
Prajnesh Gunneswaran in action against Dennis Novak at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on 25th February, 2020. Photo Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

The Indian team that was named on Tuesday has a huge task of defeating Croatia in Zagreb next week to earn their ticket for the main World Group in November. As India’s second-best ranked player, Gunneswaran is aware of the responsibilities ahead.

“We definitely have a good chance against Croatia. They are going to be without [Borna] Coric. And to our credit, Sumit [Nagal] has been playing well and Ramkumar [Ramanathan] is there as well,” Gunneswaran told Gulf News on the sidelines of the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open.

“Ramkumar can figure in the doubles too and that improves options for the captain. Then, we have Leander [Paes] in the side as well which gives us better. Hopefully, Sumit and I can step up to the task and do well in the singles and get things going for India in Zagreb,” he hoped.

Gunneswaran is one of the top ranked tennis players with a current ATP ranking of 134. The lefty from Chennai has won eight ITF titles in singles and became only the sixth Indian tennis player to win a medal in the Asian Games.

Aiding India’s cause this time around is also the fact that the country of 1.3 billion has a good cluster of ranked players. There are three — Nagal, Gunneswaran and Ramanathan — in the top-200, while Sasikumar Mukund (No. 279) and Saketh Myneni (No. 413) are not too far behind.

“We have a good group of players in both singles and doubles. I think this is close to the highest ranked group of players that we’ve had in a long time. We are doing well overall as a country, but we still have a long way to go,” Gunneswaran related.

“Belonging the World Group has always been a goal for us. I don’t that’s a new goal. It is just a matter of whether we can find a way to win the matches that we need to go through to get to the World Group,” he added.

The winning 12 nations in the upcoming qualifiers will join last year’s semi-finalists — Spain, Canada, Great Britain and Russia — along with wild card nations France and Serbia at the Davis Cup Finals at La Caja Magica from November 23-29.

In the Davis Cup, India has finished runners-up on three occasions — 1966, 1974 and 1987 — but is yet to lift the trophy. Only India and Romania have contested more than one Final without being crowned champions.