Otta Virtanen defied his ranking of 419, played a solid game and defeated the 165th-ranked Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3, 7-6(1) as host Finland took a 1-0 lead in the Davis Cup World Group tie at the Espoo Metro Arena on Friday.
The 20-year-old Virtanen, figuring in just his second Davis Cup tie, played like a champion. He served well, stroked with conviction and retained his composure despite facing a set point in the 12th game of the second set before crossing the finish line in an hour and 25 minutes.
A shaky sixth game of the opening set, when Virtanen produced a couple of sharp winners, saw Prajnesh lose serve and the initiative.
Virtanen saved a breakpoint in the next game to tighten his grip over the set and served out the set in the ninth game.
The 31-year-old Prajnesh played a lot better in the second set, but failed to capitalise on the chances that came his way. He saved three breakpoints in the ninth game to keep his nose in front, but missed an opportunity in the 11th game.
Virtanen then saved a set point with an ace in the 12th game and took the set to a tie-breaker. The Finn kept his cool, pulling away from the Indian and winning 7-1 much to the delight of the sparse gathering in the indoor arena.
Virtanen served 10 aces and converted one of eight breakpoints as he gave Finland a 1-0 advantage.
The trend of losing to opponents ranked much lower than him continued for Prajnesh, who had lost to Borna Gojo of Croatia in March last year.
Prajnesh, who made his Davis Cup debut in 2017, has a 2-6 win-loss record. His victories came against Yibing Wu in the fifth rubber against China in 2018 and Sanjar Fayziev of Uzbekistan in Bengaluru in 2017.
The result: Finland leads India 1-0 [Otto Virtanen bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3, 7-6(1)].