Ramkumar Ramanathan lost a dog fight with Marin Cilic in one of the best matches of his career after unforced errors pulled Prajnesh Gunneswaran down as India trailed Croatia 0-2 on the opening day of the Davis Cup Qualifiers, at Zagreb on Friday. (More Tennis News)
The match between Ramkumar and Cilic was all about boom boom serves in which the Croat prevailed 7-6 (8) 7-6(8) in gruelling two hours and 12 minutes.
Playing against world number 37 and the 2014 US Open Champion, Ramkumar played fearless brand of tennis, forcing Cilic to play his best game.
He lost the match but proved that captain Rohit Rajapal's faith in him to challenge Cilic had merit.
There was no break of serve in the match, showing that the margin of defeat was very little. Ramkumar stayed solid with his game as stroked well from the baseline to make deep returns and also served and volley to rattle Cilic.
India now must win all three remaining matches on Saturday to qualify for Davis Cup finals.
Earlier, much was expected from Prajnesh Gunneswaran but he lost to Borna Gojo, who was considered a weak link in the rival line-up.
Prajnesh lost 6-3 4-6 2-6 in one hour and 57 minutes.
Gojo, ranked 277th, had not won a singles match in Davis Cup earlier and Indians were hoping that the trend will continue.
Gojo peppered returns on Prajnesh's backhand side and served big. Most importantly, he handled pressure better than the Indian.
Prajnesh had a break chance in the very first game of the match but Gojo saved that with an ace. Gojo served big and hit consistently on the backhand of the Indian, who had two more chances in the fifth game to break the serve of his rival but could convert none.
Gojo, though, kept providing the openings and Prajnesh finally drew the first blood when the Croat hit a forehand long in the seventh game.
Some good defending by Prajnesh meant that long rallies were in play and that worked in the Indian's favour. Gojo's unforced errors hurt him as one such forehand error handed Prjanesh the opening set after 39 minutes.
Prajnesh began to play aggressive from the beginning of the second set, going for his shots and in the process faced six break points in the first game, which lasted 11 minutes.
The left-hander saved five but Gojo found a backhand volley winner after charging to the net to nose ahead. Prajnesh had chances to get the break back but squandered them. One reason for that was that Gojo grew in confidence and controlled his errors.
A major change in Gojo's game was that he was now coming to the net very often, burying easy volleys. His big serve aided him in doing that.
Prajnesh had to hit deep returns to negate it but Gojo did not let him do that and opened up a comfortable 5-3 lead and served out the set with ease with an overhead volley winner.
A backhand error put Prajnesh down by two break chances in the third game which he saved but another backhand flew over the baseline to give Gojo anther chance which he converted to cause ripples in the Indian camp.
A fired-up Gojo came out serving all guns blazing to consolidate the break, making it 3-1. Prajnesh was feeling the heat now and his backhand melted as unforced errors put him down 1-4 in the decider.
The comeback from Prajnesh did not happen and Gojo walked out of the court jumping with joy.