India conceded a 0-2 lead to host Croatia after Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran faced hard-fought defeats on the opening day of the Davis Cup World Group qualifier tie.

The Croatians — former US Open champion Marin Cilic and debutant Borna Gojo — were made to work hard by a spirited India team on Friday.

First, it was Gojo who defeated Prajnesh 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to put Croatia at 1-0. Gojo forced Gunneswaran into submission after overcoming early jitters in his first Davis Cup appearance which lasted almost two hours.

Gojo broke in the opening game of the second set and held throughout to redress the balance, with Prajnesh failing to cope with the Croatian’s thundering serve and stinging baseline shots.

Gojo engineered the decisive advantage in the third game of the final set when he broke to take a 2-1 lead. He unleashed some searing crosscourt winners to win the next two games and put himself in a commanding lead before Prajnesh briefly rekindled his own hopes of getting back into the contest, as he broke back to cut the deficit to 4-2.

But Gojo held his nerve and having broken the Indian’s serve straight back, he wrapped up the contest with an ace to delight his teammates and captain Vedran Martic.

In the second match, World number 37 Cilic also had to overcome a strong challenge from Ramkumar in a titanic tussle with no breaks of serve.

Ramkumar, ranked number 182, tormented Cilic with a series of brilliant forays to the net while the Croatian replied with some lightning serves and forehand winners.

The Indian number 2 carved out a 6-5 lead in the tie-break and having saved two set points himself after Cilic had turned the tables, the Indian then handed the lead to his rival on a silver platter with a double fault.

Cilic might have expected plain sailing in the second set but Ramkumar kept battling away and matched his rival in every department to force another dramatic tie-break. It was a rollercoaster from start to finish as the Indian took a 2-0 and then fell behind 5-4 before he wasted a set point with the atmosphere in the arena reaching feverish pitch.

Cilic then squandered two match points before he finally clinched the contest as Ramkumar sent a forehand beyond the baseline.

Croatia’s Mate Pavic and Franko Skugor will now face Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna in the doubles before Cilic takes on Gunneswaran and Gojo clashes with Ramkumar in the reverse singles on Saturday.