India's hopes of qualifying for the top tier of the Davis Cup came unstuck at the final hurdle once again as they lost to Norway in the World Group I first round in Lillehammer last week.
The hosts took a winning 3-0 lead after World No. 2 Casper Ruud and Viktor Durasovic clinched the all-important doubles rubber with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni.
India had lost to Finland at the same stage last year before bouncing back into contention after defeating Denmark in the playoff. Prior to that, the team had lost to Croatia in 2020 and Serbia in 2018 at the same stage.
At the Hakons hall indoor arena, the Indians' hopes had rested on Bhambri and Myneni, who had won five Challenger titles together this year and climbed up the ladder in doubles rankings, after the team had lost both the singles rubbers earlier. Ramkumar Ramanathan went down 1-6, 4-6 to Durasovic after Ruud had made short work of Prajnesh Gunneswaran with an identical scoreline.
"Definitely we made a poor start. Having given a 2-0 lead, we should have come out firing. But we had a slow start, we were not sharp, we were not good enough," a candid Bhambri said after the humbling loss.