Croatia are expected to field their top players - Marin Cilic and Borna Coric - and against India in their Davis Cup World Group qualifier in Zagreb next month.
This is the seventh time in as many years that the Indian team has made it to the qualifier stage of the elite team competition, but is yet to make it to the World Group. The tie will be played on March 6 and 7, with the Croatians set to field the same team that won them the 2018 title.
“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 told The Indian Express. “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.”
Croatia's Borna Coric (AP Photo)
As such, the singles rubbers will be contested by former world no. 12 Borna Coric (currently ranked 31) and 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic (currently ranked 37, but who has reached as high as No. 3 in the world). As for the sole doubles rubber, Dodig, the world no 10 (former no. 4) is the highest-ranked player from the Balkan country in contention for the tie, along with no. 15 Pavic (former world no. 1) and world no. 20 Mektic (formerly no 5).
The All India Tennis Association (AITA), who have named a six-member team for the five-man tie, has also named its strongest team available. However, only one Indian singles player in the current line-up has been in the top 100 before, and the highest-ranked doubles player is Rohan Bopanna at 41.
The Indian line-up includes former world no. 75 Prajnesh Gunneswaran (currently at 124), Sumit Nagal (126) and Ramkumar Ramanathan (180). As for the doubles rubber, Bopanna leads the line followed by world no. 56 Divij Sharan and India’s sixth-highest ranked doubles player, veteran Leander Paes (124), who is on his farewell season.
Paes, now 46, was part of the tie when the two countries clashed in the Davis Cup back in 1995 – the only previous encounter between the two teams. The former world no. 1 doubles player had pulled off an upset over Goran Ivanisevic to help the hosts earn a 3-2 win at New Delhi.
Since then though, Croatia has won the title in 2005 and 2018 while the Indians, this time, will hope to pull off an upset to make it to the World Group for the first time since 2011.