Another Davis Cup by Rakuten tie lies ahead of the Indian team. Most team members arrived in Helsinki already last weekend (Ramkumar Ramanathan was a bit later due to his Challenger Tour victory). Since Tuesday, our guys are able to train three times a day at Espoo Metro Arena. Here is a preview with some stories around the tie.

The Draw

With most of the draw fixed beforehand anyway, the draw is only up to whose team’s #1 is facing the #2 of the other country. For our guys, being favorite against the “weaker” Finnish player, it would have likely been an advantage to have this match first and put the hosts under pressure in the second singles of day 1, in which they are more likely to win. That’s what in fact happened, Prajnesh Gunneswaran is in the position to have India in the driving seat. The full draw is below – all times are Indian Standard Time:

FinlandIndia
Fr 20:30Otto VIRTANENPrajnesh GUNNESWARAN
thereafterEmil RUUSUVUOURIRamkumar RAMANATHAN
Sa 16:30Harri HELIOVAARA /
Henri KONTINEN
Rohan BOPANNA /
Divij SHARAN
thereafterEmil RUUSUVUORIPrajnesh GUNNESWARAN
thereafterOtto VIRTANENRamkumar RAMANATHAN

Please note that the teams may change their nominations for Day 2.

The Arena

Metro Areena Espoo is a 1999 built multi-purpose arena. The main user have been the Espoon Blues, a top league ice hockey club, which (if I am not wrong) stopped competing in 2016. Nowadays, the venue is majorly used for sports competitions and some concerts. It is located in a park with multiple sports facilities in the borough of Tapiola.

The City – Espoo

Espoo is the second largest city in Finland. Some 300,000 people live here, right West of the capital Helsinki. The city is known for a couple of companies and the university. There are also a few interesting cultural sites. There is not too much “Davis Cup fever” in the city, though. Apart from the banner at Espoo Metro Areena, there is not too much advertisement for the World Group I tie.

Social Distancing and The Bubble

The tie is held under strict ITF hygienic regulations. Thus, ITD cannot enter the arena for practice sessions and the draws. However, the Finnish tennis federation does a great job providing information, pictures and videos of training sessions etc. The players also don’t stay in the tournament hotel directly, but just very close to it and receive catering from there. Even in normal times, the players would be limited in their leisure activities: the local metro and tram drivers went on strike on Thursday, so that the main public transport lines to Helsinki are cut currently.

The Finnish Team

Being drawn against Finland might have been a rather reasonable draw for our team in the previous years. Jarkko Nieminen dominated the Scandinavian team campaigns, not that rarely leading to victorious ties with two singles and a doubles rubber wins. Regarding the world ranking, Finland is 33rd and thus eleven spots behind our team.

But the Finnish tennis has developed massively during the last years. Nieminen has stopped being active after 18 years of DC experience, but he is now on the bench as a non-playing captain. The team is lead by Emil Ruusuvuori (Singles #74), who is the highest ranked player in singles of the tie. For singles, Nieminen’s key options are Otto Virtanen (#419) and Patrik Niklas-Salminen (#491). In doubles, two times ATP Tour Finals winner Henri Kontinen is a legend in Finnish doubles tennis, but is now ranked at #46 only. The most probable partner is #76 ranked Harri Heliovaara. These two also played the US Open recently, but lost in first round. Ruusuvuori is of course another option.

Any arena indoor pictures and draws by the Finnish Tennis Federation. Outdoor pictures by Flyctory.com

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