Ahead of Serbia’s Davis Cup World Group Playoff tie at home against India, Filip Krajinovic, their ace singles player has been ruled out with a shoulder injury. With the current Wimbledon and US Open champion Novak Djokovic having already made himself unavailable for the tie, world no 33 Krajinovic was expected to lead the home team.
More so, since he remained unbeaten when the two countries had competed at the same stage of the tournament four years ago. “I had to cancel my participation in the Davis Cup,” the 26-year-old told Serbian newspaper Sportski Zurnal. “I’m really sorry, but my shoulder is not in the brightest condition. It hurts. I cannot serve until the end of next week, so it automatically meant that I could not play (the tie) in Kraljevo.”
When the two teams met in Bangalore four years ago, again in the absence of Djokovic, Krajinovic beat Somdev Devvarman in the second rubber before winning against Yuki Bhambri in the deciding fifth rubber to help Serbia win the tie 3-2. The European outfit’s non-playing captain Nenad Zimonjic expected the youngster to shoulder the responsibility of the squad this time around, given that he has improved his ranking significantly since falling down to 234 in the world at the start of the 2017 season. In March, Krajinovic had reached a career high 26 despite being plagued with injuries this year. His recent campaign at the US Open though took a toll on him.
With him out of the tie, world no 56 Dusan Lajovic and Laslo Djere (86) will play the singles rubbers in the indoor clay court of the Kraljevo Sports Venue when the tie starts on September 14. For the doubles tie, Zimonjic does not have any doubles specialist in the team, but is likely to field youngsters Pedja Krstin and Nikola Milojevic.
Last week, the Indian team too had to make drastic changes to its squad after the country’s leading singles player Bhambri (96) and second highest ranked doubles specialist Divij Sharan (38) pulled out of the tie due to issues with the knees and shoulder respectively. In an emergency meeting, the AITA selection committee instead named world no 110 N Sriram Balaji and Arjun Kadhe as replacements for the six-member team they was originally announced.
The likely line-up would be: Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran playing the singles rubbers while Balaji will pair up with world no 30 Rohan Bopanna for doubles.Kadhe and Saketh Myneni meanwhile will serve as sparring partners for the team that is currently holding camp in Belgrade, in an attempt to acclimatize to the conditions.
For four consecutive years, the Indian team has reached the playoff stage but failed to get back into the World Group – since dropping out in 2011. In their fifth attempt in as many years, the Indians will be forced to field a weakened team, but against a second-string Serbian outfit.