Croatia vs India Davis Cup tennis live streaming, preview and predictions

Hannah Wilks:

Marin Cilic leads hosts Croatia against an India team looking to pull off a big upset as the two sides face off in Zagreb for a place in November’s Davis Cup Finals.

Croatia vs India is live from Zagreb on Friday 6 March from 3pm local/2pm GMT

Tie details

Location: Zagreb, Croatia

Venue: Dom Sportova

Surface: Hard (indoors)

Croatia: Marin Cilic, Borna Gojo, Nino Serdarusic, Mate Pavic, Vedran Martic (captain)

India: Sumit Nagal, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramunathan, Rohan Bopanna, Leander Paes, Rohit Rajpal (captain)

Order of play:

Day 1 (play starts at 3pm local/2pm GMT)
Borna Gojo (CRO) vs Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND)
Marin Cilic (CRO) vs Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND)

Day 2 (play starts at 3pm local/2pm GMT)
Mate Pavic/Franko Skugor (CRO) vs Rohan Bopanna/Leander Paes (IND)
Marin Cilic (CRO) vs Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND)
Borna Gojo (CRO) vs Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND)

NB: Player nominations can change until an hour before the start of play

Davis Cup Qualifying 2020: Tie information, results and live streaming

Borna Gojo (CRO) vs Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND)

Croatia have often been a Davis Cup force to be reckoned with in recent years, winning the title despite being unseeded in 2005 and triumphing again in 2018 when they beat France in a thrilling final, becoming the last champions of the ‘traditional’ format competition.

But they come into this tie rather underpowered, lacking both doubles specialist Ivan Dodig and their current top-ranked player Borna Coric due to injury.

Under the circumstances it falls to novice player Borna Gojo, a 22-year-old currently ranked world no. 277, to make his home-tie debut and try to get the home side on the board in Zagreb.

Gojo plays almost exclusively on the Challenger Tour and only broke into the top 300 at the very end of 2019 after reaching the semifinals of the Granby and Lizhou Challengers. He made his Davis Cup debut at the Finals in November, and it was a tough one, losing to Andrey Rublev 3-6, 3-6 and Rafael Nadal 4-6, 3-6. Will that experience stand him in good stead on Friday as he plays a rubber at home for the first time?

Gojo is 7-6 so far in 2020, having reached the quarterfinals of the Bangkok and Launceston Challengers.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran (Saikat Paul/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)

 

India’s no. 2-ranked singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran has played six singles rubbers in his career, so has a bit more experience than Gojo: His record is 2-4, with the wins in question having come over Sanjar Fayziev of Uzbekistan and Wu Yibing of China, although he has lost the last three he has played, including both singles rubbers in India’s tie against Italy in 2019.

Gunneswaran was ranked as high as world no. 75 in 2019, after compiling some very good results over the previous 12 months: In 2018, he won the Anning and Bengaluru Challengers and finished runner-up at two more. In early 2019, he reached Challenger semifinals in Chennai and Bangkok and then made the third round of the Indian Wells Masters as a qualifier. The rise in his ranking enabled him to play some regular ATP Tour events during the late spring and summer, winning main-draw matches in Antalya, Los Cabos and Winston-Salem.

Dropping back outside of the top 100 after failing to defend his Pune and Bengalaru Challenger points from 2018, Gunneswaran made it to the main draw of the Australian Open in 2020 as a lucky loser after falling to Ernests Gulbis in qualifying and lost to Tatsumo Ito before falling to Soonwoo Kwon in the second round of ATP Pune.
In terms of form there is little to choose between them: Gunneswaran has greater experience, but Gojo has the home crowd behind him (although sometimes that can be a disadvantage). Marin Cilic has singled out the left-handed Gunneswaran as a potential danger, and the 30-year-old Indian sounds confident, saying:

‘I saw Borna play in a Challenger in Bangalore and I actually practiced with him once in Australia, so I know how he plays. We are both raring to go and we’ll see how it pans out.’

If India hope to make things awkward for the home side, they need Gunneswaran to get this singles win on day one.

Marin Cilic (CRO) vs Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND)

Cilic may not technically be Croatia’s no. 1 singles player – he is currently a few spaces below the absent Borna Coric – but he is absolutely the leader of this team and frankly the one that everyone will be expecting to secure the home side’s victory this weekend.

That’s a lot of pressure for a man who is a cut above all the other players in the tie as a champion – a US Open champion, two-time Grand Slam runner-up to boot, plus a Masters 1000 Series champion with 18 ATP Tour singles titles to his name – but who has not been playing his best for some time. Cilic really struggled through a torrid 2019 season, in which he failed to win a title for the first year in a long time, didn’t make a single major quarterfinal and only made one ATP Tour semifinal at all, at the Moscow 250. A knee injury certainly contributed, although Cilic himself seems keener to talk about it as an expression of burnout after so many years on tour.

There have been some signs of revival for Cilic in 2020 – he went 2-1 at the ATP Cup Finals, and reached the last 16 at the Australian Open, beating Benoit Paire and, most impressively, Roberto Bautista Agut before losing to an on-fire Milos Raonic. But he’s gone 1-2 since then, losing to Denis Shapovalov in Marseille and Paire in Dubai.

Ramkumar Ramanathan (Credit Image: © Saikat Paul/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)

 

Cilic will obviously still be the overwhelming favourite against Ramkumar Ramanathan, however. The Indian player has never ranked above world no. 111 and comes into the tie at world no. 182. Although Ramanathan has reached 27 finals in his career, the overwhelming majority have been at Futures level, including all 16 of his titles.

The outlier was Newport in 2018, the post-Wimbledon July ATP 250 at which Ramanathan had the best run of his career, beating Vasek Popsisil and Denis Kudla on his way to the final, which he lost to Steve Johnson. Ramanathan qualified for the main draw in Newport on his return and beat Sergiy Stakhovsky to reach the second round, but was otherwise unable to defend his points.

A Challenger semifinalist in Nanchang, Glasgow and Pune in 2019, Ramanathan is 3-7 so far in 2020, with his best result a quarterfinal appearance at the Bangkok Challenger where he beat second seed Go Soeda before losing to Robin Haase.

Cilic and Ramanathan have actually played once before, at the Pune 250 in January 2018 when Cilic won 6-4, 6-3, and Ramanathan has a 1-12 record against players ranked inside the top 50 (although oddly enough the one he did win was against then-world no. 8 Dominic Thiem in Antalya in 2018, on grass, significantly). Davis Cup can produce strange dynamics, and Cilic is nowhere near his best at the moment. Still, the 2014 US Open champion has a 29-11 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles and, with his country looking to him, he should be more than capable of securing a victory over Ramanathan.

Click here to stream India vs Croatia Davis Cup matches live from Zagreb on Friday 6 March