A tailor-made low bounce and fast grass court arranged for the home advantage, the Indian Davis Cup team will start as firm favourite but Denmark is still expected to present a good fight in the Davis Cup World Group Play-off tie, starting on Friday.
India's best player Yuki Bhambri is back in the squad and that changes the dynamics for the two-day rubber. India terribly felt his absence when he was out of action in the last four years due to his knee injury. India lost a few winnable ties but now with Yuki back in the mix, the team can bank on his immense talent and ability to pull off tight matches against a high-quality opponent. The 29-year-old will know exactly what he needs to do on the opening day since it will be Ramkumar Ramanathan who will open the tie for India with the first singles against Christian Sigsgaard, the world number 824.
Ramkumar could not have asked for a better match since with his experience of playing on grass court and on the ATP tour, it should not be much of a problem to go past the Danish player. Yuki will play against 305th ranked Mikale Torpegaard, on whom much will depend how the tie goes. If Holger Rune (ranked 88) had not pulled out of the tie, it would have made it tougher for India. Going by rankings, Indian team is strong but in Davis Cup the players usually manage to punch above their weight so it will come down to who plays better on the match day.
As of now, the Indian team looks sharp and completely acclimatised to the grass court. The players will have a feel of the Centre Court for the first time on Friday and skipper Rohit Rajpal is expecting it to behave as per the requirement of the home side. "The idea is to keep it low and as fast as possible. We will consult grass court experts and local gardeners to know how much rolling is required. Hopefully it will play well," Rajpal said.
Since the bounce is expected to be low, the team management thought that it will be better to have Yuki playing the singles instead of Prajnesh Gunneswaran as low bounce suits the former's game better. Given that Rohan Bopanna and Ramkumar are a team, it was expected that they will be paired for the doubles but skipper chose left-handed Divij Sharan with the big-serving Coorgi. Rajpal's argument was that they did not want Ramkumar to be put under pressure mentally and physically by making him play three matches. Ramkumar did say that playing for country adds to pressure but he was looking forward to give India a positive start.
Bopanna said after playing for 20 years on the circuit it does not make a difference to him whether he plays with a left-hander or a right-hander. "My focus is on what I can do. After playing with numerous partners in my 20-year career, it now does not matter. The adjustment comes naturally whether it's left-handed partner or right handed," the 41-year-old said. Bopanna also said that he is enjoying the leadership role in the side being the most experienced player in the team.
"I have changed a few things like there is open communication among players. We ensure that we have our meals together. There is great camaraderie in the side. I always tell them to give their hearts to the job." Both Prajnesh and Yuki acknowledged that Bopanna's input helps them. India reached the play-offs stage after losing World Group I first round 1-3 to Finland, while Denmark advanced after winning World Group II tie against Morocco.
India and Denmark are playing for the first time since 1984 tie when India emerged 3-2 winner in Aarhus.
On Friday: (Matches to start at 11am) Ramkumar Ramanathan vs Christian Sigsgaard Yuki Bhambri vs Mikael Torpegaard
On Saturday: (Matches to start at 10am) Rohan Bopanna/Divij Sharan vs Johannes Ingildsen/Frederik Nielsen Ramkumar Ramanathan vs Mikael Torpegaard Yuki Bhambri vs Christian Sigsgaard.