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Davis Cup: India bank on Prajnesh, CSC grass courts to upset Italy

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India would rely heavily on in-form Prajnesh Gunneswaran and favourable home conditions to upset former champions Italy in their bid to qualify for the inaugural Davis Cup Group Finals when the two teams clash in the Qualifiers starting here from Friday.
The rejigged Davis Cup enters a new era with 12 qualifiers across the globe on the road to Madrid Finals in November.
Against a team which leads 4-1 on head-to-head record, India have returned to their favourite Calcutta South Club (CSC) grass courts after 16 years.
The venue boasts of an impressive 8-2 win-loss record for India, including the solitary victory over Italy in the 1985’s World Group 1st Round.
“It’s grass, not clay! Maybe next time, we will play on clay against India. We have nothing to complain,” said 1976 Davis Cup winner Corrado Barazzutti, here as the non-playing captain of Italy.
Another boost for India is the shortened format. The popular ‘home-away’ format has been retained for the qualifiers and the ties now will be held in two days with two singles on Friday and a doubles plus two return singles on Saturday.
Matches will now be played over best-of-three sets in place of gruelling best of five, adding to the unpredictability factor and Italy, despite having three of their five players inside top-50, cannot breathe easy.
India’s non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi has already said there is no room for excuses for the home side and would be banking on their top-ranked singles player Prajnesh (102) to get the hosts off the block.
The big-serving southpaw, who is fresh from making his Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open, achieved one of the best wins of his career on grass when he shocked Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, the current world number 25.
And it’s no surprise that Bhupathi will heavily bank on Prajnesh in singles while the most-experienced Rohan Bopanna will look to carry on his fine momentum with comeback man Divij Sharan in doubles. The duo won the Tata Maharashtra Open earlier this month.
With the hosts needing to win at least three rubbers to secure a place in the finals, Prajnesh will play a key role, while the doubles will be equally crucial as has been the case historically for India.
But it’s easier said than done with world number 16 Marco Cecchinato spearheading Italy’s challenge.
Cecchinato won two ATP 250 titles last year, both on clay and it remains to be seen how the top-ranked Italian adjusts to grass.
In world number 37, Andreas Seppi, Italy also have the most-experienced player. Italy also has doubles specialist in Simone Bolelli, the 2015 Austrlian Open winner, while 22-year-old Matteo Baerrettini, the youngest member of the side will give X-factor to the visitors.
India lost 0-4 to Serbia in their World Group play-off clash in Kraljevo and the upcoming tie will be a litmus test for non-playing captain Bhupathi with reports indicating that his contract may not be renewed.
The venue has produced some of the epic encounters for India in the history of Davis Cup, including the 3-2 win over Australia to reach the Eastern Final in 1974 but conceded the title to South Africa, protesting the Apartheid regime.
But it was India’s World Group first round win over Switzerland that had made headlines after they had triumphed 3-2 in a rain-interrupted tie which was termed “black magic” by the referee
“It had rained whole night and the referee had booked return tickets. But we worked whole night to get the court ready. In the morning, the referee came and said it is ‘Indian black magic’ and we won. Their big serving player Marc Rosset almost looked redundant,” Bengal Tennis Association COO Sujoy Ghosh recalled.

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Nisha Shiwani hails from the pink city of Jaipur and is a prolific writer. She loves to write on Real Estate/Property, Automobiles, Education, Finance and about the latest developments in the Technology space.



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Featured

Indian Wells 2019: Serena Williams retires ill, to focus on Miami next

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An ill Serena Williams retired from the BNP Paribas Open while trailing Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 6-3 1-0 at Indian Wells on Sunday.

Williams had taken a 3-0 lead in the first set before losing the next seven games. She walked to the chair after the first game of the second set and sat down, breathing heavily.

After a discussion with supervisor Donna Kelso the American retired.

Tournament officials said the former world number one was suffering from a viral illness and Williams later confirmed she had been feeling ill ahead of the third-round tie.

“Before the match, I did not feel great, and then it just got worse with every second; extreme dizziness and extreme fatigue,” Williams said in a statement.

“By the score, it might have looked like I started well, but I was not feeling at all well physically. I will focus on getting better and start preparing for Miami.”

Williams, 37, had shown signs of fatigue during the first set and after it was completed she called for a trainer and following a lengthy conversation returned to the court.Muguruza said it felt like a hollow victory.

“I felt that maybe she wasn’t feeling well,” she said. “It’s really a weird feeling, because I don’t feel like I won the match point and (got the) ‘well done, … good match’.

“It was just like, ‘man, we’ll play next time.'”

Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, gave birth to a daughter in 2017 and returned to play last year.

She is currently ranked 10th in the world and was playing in her first tournament since the Australian Open in January.

She defeated Victoria Azarenka 7-5 6-3 in her first match at Indian Wells on Friday.

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Indian Wells 2019: Federer wins opener, Nishikori survives three-setter

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Roger Federer began his campaign for a record sixth Indian Wells title by defeating German Peter Gojowczyk 6-1 7-5 in the BNP Paribas Open in California on Sunday. Fresh from earning his 100th ATP singles title a week ago in Dubai, the Swiss fourth seed repelled a tough second set challenge from the world No.85 before booking his third round place.

Federer, who won the last of his Indian Wells titles two years ago but lost in the 2018 final, used his backhand slice to keep Gojowczk from gaining any rhythm in the first set. Yet the second proved more of a challenge as the German saved four break points in his first service game, then used his momentum to break for a 3-1 lead. Federer immediately broke back before later benefitting from an untimely double fault for another break and serving out for victory in just over an hour and a quarter.

Earlier, Japan’s Kei Nishikori narrowly avoided a second round defeat against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino before battling through 6-4 4-6 7-6(4).

World number seven Nishikori was not at his best with the left-handed Mannarino’s flat groundstrokes neutralising his attacks and the Frenchman seemed to be heading for victory when he served for the match at 6-5.

Yet he double faulted on the third break point he faced in the game and, in the deciding tiebreak, Nishikori raced into a 6-2 lead.

Still, Mannarino kept fighting, saving two match points before the Japanese finally wrapped up victory after two hours and 33 minutes.

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Lawn Tennis

New Australian Open heat policy to counter oven-like conditions

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A new extreme heat policy that dictates when it is safe to play will be introduced at next month’s Australian Open to better deal with frequent oven-like conditions on court.
The “Heat Stress Scale” will be used for the first time at a Grand Slam to help prevent players from fainting and suffering exhaustion, relying on more weather-measuring devices at Melbourne Park.
Organisers said it followed “cutting-edge research and testing into the specific effects of heat stress on tennis players”.
New rules will allow for a 10-minute break between the second and third sets in women’s singles matches when a four — on a scale of one to five — is recorded on the HSS prior to or during the first two sets of a match.
Men will get a 10-minute breather after the third set if a four is reached.
If the heat stress scale goes to five, play can be suspended.
Tennis Australia chief medical officer Carolyn Broderick said the scale took into account the effects of heat on the human body including the maximum stress an athlete can safely withstand, the sweat rate of that person and their core temperature.
“The scale also accounts for the physiological variances between adults, wheelchair and junior athletes while also taking into account the four climate factors — air temperature, radiant heat or the strength of the sun, humidity and wind speed.”
Previously, organisers could only activate the extreme heat policy and halt play or close roofs when the temperature exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and the Bureau of Meteorology’s wet bulb globe temperature index — which is used to estimate heat stress in humans — hit 32.5 Celsius.
Suffocating weather at Melbourne Park has caused serious problems with players in the past.
Among those suffering at the 2018 tournament was Gael Monfils, with fears for his health in a mid-afternoon match against Novak Djokovic.
The Frenchman, known as one of the fittest players on tour, looked dazed and confused in his second set and eventually received medical assistance.
He said afterwards he was “dying” on court, while France’s Alize Cornet had her blood pressure and pulse monitored by a doctor during a medical timeout, saying later she was going to faint.
One of the worst years for heat at the Open was 2014, when many players were in trouble.
Among them was Blaz Kavcic who was placed on a drip, while Frank Dancevic said he was hallucinating about cartoon character Snoopy in his dazed state.

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Lawn Tennis

Federer makes history with eighth Wimbledon, 19th major title

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