India’s depleted Davis Cup squad will bank on the consistency of Prajnesh Gunneswaran to pull the side through when it takes on Serbia in the World Group play-off tie Karljevo on Friday.
The recently-crowned US Open champion Novak Djokovic’s decision to opt out of the play-offs along with world No 33 Filip Krajinovic has raised hopes of an even contest between India and Serbia. It will be played indoors on clay courts
Playing away is still an enormous task for India, which doesn’t have its top singles player Yuki Bhambri and Divij Sharan.
But the combined experience of the Indian players in Davis Cup is 43 ties as compared to just 14 of the the home side.
• India have not beaten Serbia since 1927 when they were called Yugoslavia.
• India, if it beats Serbia, will enter the World Group for the first time since 2011.
• Rohan Bopanna will be the most experienced player on the courts with 29 ties
• This will be the first outing for Mahesh Bhupathi as captain.
In the absence of an injured Yuki, a lot would depend on how the left-handed Prajnesh performs.
The 28-year-old won the deciding fifth rubber against rising Chinese star Yibing Wu to help India reach the World Group Play-off stage for the fifth straight year.
“Novak is not playing, so everyone else is beatable if we play well. It will be tough certainly. But we have a chance. We need to take the opportunities we get,” said Prajnesh .
The last four times India was inflicted with losses in the World Group Play-offs were 2014 Serbia, 2015 Czech Republic 2016 Spain and 2017 Canada.