NZ faces big challenge in Davis Cup tie v Finland
New Zealand Davis Cup captain Kelly Evernden is exuding positivity despite his team facing a big challenge in this weekend’s World Group 1 Davis Cup tie against Finland in Helsinki.
The New Zealand team consisting of singles players Ajeet Rai (679) Kiranpal Pannu (744) (watch KP's interview with Newstalk ZB sports news director, Matt Brown) Isaac Becroft (1016) and doubles specialists Michael Venus (7 ) and Artem Sitak (112) have all arrived in the Finnish capital to begin preparations for the Tie to be played on Friday and Saturday night NZT.
Their opponents boast current world number 51 Emil Ruusuvuori with their second ranked player Otto Virtanen ranked 252. Their top ranked doubles player Harri Heliovaara is ranked 17th. The Finns are captained by Jarkko Nieminen who as a player reached a career high of 13 in the world.
Despite the Finns being strong favourites Evernden felt New Zealand would be in with a chance of causing an upset, as they did against Uruguay in Las Vegas in March.
“We are up against a really class player in Ruusuvuori and it’s going to be a tall order for us. But that’s Davis Cup and it’s happened before and everybody’s in a positive kind of mind frame.” Evernden said.
The New Zealand captain believes the singles rubbers against the Finnish number two Virtanen are clearly winnable.
“And, you know, they have some questions that need to be answered by their number two guy and as always, our doubles we’ve always kind of been the front runner in, in getting us a point there. So, we were looking at it, in a positive way. If we can go into the second day with a 1-1 score, I think the pressure lies with them.” Evernden said.
Evernden is encouraged by the recent results of the relatively inexperienced singles trio of Rai, Pannu and Becroft. Rai has improved his singles ranking a couple of hundred places in recent weeks and won his first ATP Challenger doubles title last weekend in Thailand at his first attempt.
“Yeah, everybody’s trending upwards, which is a great thing. You want guys to be coming in playing well. KP’s been playing well, and Isaac’s had a great college tournament and played some great matches. Watching the boys hit today they’re definitely a level above where they were in Vegas. And, you know, that's exciting, you want to see improvement right, and they’ve shown that.” Evernden said.
The first two singles rubbers are overnight Friday NZT with doubles and reverse singles rubbers on Saturday night.
There is a big prize at stake for the winners this weekend, a place in the Qualifiers next March where nations compete for a place at the Davis Cup Finals in 2024.
“I think it's been a long time for New Zealand. I haven't really been in the world group situation; you know with a legitimate chance and this is a legitimate chance. I mean we are not playing the US or Russia so we have a chance against one of the losers from the World Group last year.” Evernden said.
The draw takes place at 11:30 pm Thursday night NZT with the first two singles rubbers on Friday 6pm (Finland time)/Saturday 3:00am (NZ time).
Sky TV might be airing the tie but details will be provided as soon as they are available.