Finland have the advantage after day one of the Davis Cup tie in Helsinki

Friday, 16 September 2022

Finland has taken a 2-0 lead after day one of the Davis Cup tennis tie against New Zealand in Helsinki.

Ajeet Rai and Kiranpal Pannu have both been beaten in straight sets in the opening day singles rubbers.

Kiranpal Pannu played well at times mixing up his play with serving and volleying against world number 51 Emil Ruusuvuori in the first singles rubber.

The 25-year-old debutant who is ranked 744 showed glimpses of his potential, but was overwhelmed in the end 6-1, 6-2 in an hour and 3 minutes.

Ajeet Rai started strongly in the second singles rubber against Otto Virtanen holding serve with ease in his first two service games. But at 2-2 the Finn who is ranked 252 compared to Rai at 679, stepped up his return game to put Rai under pressure and force the break. While the young Kiwi was able to hold serve twice more in the opening set, he was unable to force a break point chance on Virtanen’s serve in the opening set and the Finn closed it out 6-4 in 32 minutes.

Both players had some tough holds early in the second set and as in the first it was the fifth game where things unraveled for the Kiwi as he was broken with a sizzling forehand return of serve winner from Virtanen who cruised through breaking Rai again in the 9th game to complete a 6-4 6-3 win in an hour and 18 minutes.

Tennis NZ High Performance Manager Christophe Lambert admits it was a difficult day for the team.

"We are playing a team with a world class player and KP did very well to compete. It was his first experience at this level and his first cap. He can see that he had some opportunities and can comeback to the training court to work on the aspect of his game which need improvement." Lambert said.
"Ajeet played a bad game of serve in the 1st set and got broken. When Otto's 1st serve % dropped Ajeet didn't manage to take the opportunity to break back."

"The team is ready to go back to the Metro Stadium tomorrow to take on a very difficult task but the history has shown us that there is always a chance before the last point is played." Lambert said.

Michael Venus and Artem Sitak will take on Ruusuvuori and Harri Heliovaara in the doubles rubber on day two from 11pm looking to keep the tie alive before the reverse singles featuring Rai against Ruusuvuori and Pannu against Virtanen.

The tie is being played at the Espoo Metro Arena with the Rebound Ace Synpave hard court laid over an ice hockey rink.

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