India's Davis Cup squad is to be named on Tuesday but for one reason or another, there do not seem to be enough top players willing to play. Rohan Bopanna, who was supposed to spearhead the Indian challenge in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania round one away tie against Uzbekistan from February 9 to 11, has opted out.
In effect, it means the All India Tennis Association is in the throes of a major crisis, with Mahesh Bhupathi having already said in December that he will not represent India again.
“I got into the doubles main draw in the Delray Beach Tour event this week and now want to focus on improving my singles ranking,” Bopanna told HT from Miami, when asked why he was not coming. But sources say that Bopanna was upset after the ugly incidents at the Doha Asian Games and did not want to be part of the national squad anymore.
The situation now is, apart from Leander Paes, the playing captain, and 20-year-old Karan Rastogi, there is no one available barring the second string for a four-member squad to be formed. Divij Sharan, Sanam Singh and Vivek Shokeen are considered the new kids on the block but none of them has the experience or mental toughness to shoulder the responsibility of playing for the country.
Of course, as a desperate measure, the AITA may even look at players like Vishaal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse. When HT contacted AITA secretary Anil Khanna on Monday evening, he had said: “I will finalise the squad on Tuesday after consultations with Leander.”
But the fact is, after the incidents in Doha, when Paes did not want to play with Bhupathi in doubles but with Bopanna instead, even the junior members in the squad felt sorry about the state of affairs.
This week, Bopanna, who has a singles ranking of 285 and a doubles ranking of 148, will be playing with Chris Haggard. “Next week, I will be playing a Challenger in Texas and after that I am going to try and qualify for the San Jose event,” said Bopanna. “My goal is to boost my rankings so that I can get into the French Open and Wimbledon qualifying,” he added.
Unfortunately, with Paes as playing captain, Indian men’s tennis seems to have hit rock bottom.