Otta Virtanen defied his rank of 419, played a robust game to beat the 165th ranked Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3, 7-6 (1), as host Finland led 1-0 in the Davis Cup World Group tie at the Espoo Metro Arena in Espoo, Finland, on Friday.
The 20-year-old Virtanen, figuring only in his second Davis Cup tie, played like a champion. He served well, stroked with conviction and retained remarkable composure despite facing a set point in the 12th game of the second set, to be home in an hour and 25 minutes.
A shaky sixth game of the opening set, when Virtanen hit a couple of sharp winners, saw Prajnesh drop serve and the initiative.
Virtanen saved a breakpoint in the next game to strengthen his grip over the set and served it out in the ninth game. The 31-year-old Prajnesh played a lot better in the second set, but failed to capitalise on the chances that he created. Prajnesh saved three breakpoints in the ninth game to retain the lead, but missed his chance in the 11th game.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran in action during the Davis Cup contest on Friday. – FINNISH TENNIS ASSOCIATION
Full credit to Virtanen, who saved a set-point with an ace in the 12th game to eventually force the tie-break. He retained his composure and played a superb tie-break, much to the delight of the sparse gathering in the indoor arena.
Virtanen served 10 aces and converted one of eight breakpoints to give Finland a 1-0 lead.
It was a disappointment for India, as the team was expecting a good start to keep its hopes alive, as Finland would be the favourite in the second singles with the 74th ranked Emil Rusuvuuori taking on the 187th ranked Ramkumar Ramanathan.
The trend of losing to opponents ranked much lower than him persisted for Prajnesh, who had lost to Borna Gojo in the tie against Croatia in March last year.
Prajnesh who made his Davis Cup debut in 2017 has a 2-6 win-loss record. His two wins came against Yibing Wu in a lively fifth rubber against China in 2018 and Sanjar Fayziev of Uzbekistan in Bengaluru in 2017. Having stumbled to an unexpected start, India will have a mountain to climb to make it a contest.
Finland leads India 1-0 (Otto Virtanen bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3, 7-6 (1))