The Indian tennis team trailed home side Norway 0-2 on the opening day of the World Group I tie of Davis Cup.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran was defeated by US Open semifinalist Casper Ruud, while Ramkumar Ramanathan was beaten by Viktor Durasovic in their respective singles matches. With the two losses at the Hakons Hall in Lillehammer on Friday, India now need to win all three of their matches (two singles and one doubles) on day two to turn the tables in the five-match World Group I tie.
In the first rubber, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, ranked 335, struggled against world No. 2 Casper Ruud and went down 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and two minutes.
Casper Ruud, the US Open finalist, won the first five games in the first set. Needing something special to avoid a bagel (6-0), Prajnesh Gunneswaran pulled off two aces in the sixth game to get on the scoreboard but couldn't avoid going 1-0 down.
Gunneswaran gave a better account of himself in the second set. Though broken twice, the Indian stayed in the hunt till the ninth game, trailing 5-4. Ruud converted his first match point in the next game to give Norway a 1-0 lead.
Ramkumar Ramanathan, India's highest-ranked men's singles player at 275, was the favourite against world No. 325 Viktor Durasovic in the second match.
However, he went down to Durasovic by an identical 6-1, 6-4 margin in one hour and 16 minutes.
Ramanathan held his serve in the second game but was broken twice soon after. Durasovic's five aces in the first set made it more difficult for India's top-ranked player to mount a comeback.
Durasovic continued to dominate Ramanathan with a solid service game and hit seven aces in the second set. Ramanathan put up an improved performance but lost the match eventually.
On Saturday, India's doubles team of Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni will team up for the doubles.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan will face Viktor Durasovic and Casper Ruud respectively, in the reverse singles matches.
India needs to win the tie and progress to next year's Davis Cup qualifying round. A loss will see India drop into the World Group I play-off stage. (ANI)