There is an air of quiet confidence in the Indian camp as they prepare to take on the dangerous South African team in the crucial Davis Cup World Group playoff tie, starting in Johannesburg on Friday.
In almost a decade now, this is the first real chance India has had to qualify for the
World Group. The belief perhaps stems from the rapid strides taken by Somdev Devvarman on the international stage. India's No.1 player, Somdev, qualified for the US Open and won a round. This was three weeks after he beat Marin Cilic at the Washington ATP.
Somdev arrived in Johannesburg on Friday to prepare for the tie, "Its a huge opportunity for us to qualify for the World Group. This is a very dangerous SA team and we have to play our best to beat them. I came here early to get used to the conditions as we are playing at high altitude."
India's second singles player Rohan Bopanna, coming back after a knee surgery, arrived on Sunday morning and immediately got down to
business. "My knee feels good and I am hitting the ball well. I am used to playing in high altitude as I come from Bangalore and these conditions suit my game style." Yuki Bhambri also joined the team on Tuesday afternoon and has been practicing well with the team.
The indoor courts in Johannesburg are not that fast, but the conditions sure are. Due to the high altitude, the ball travels much faster through the air and hence suits players with a booming serve and big game. South Africa choosing to play in Johannesburg was not a surprise since they are looking to counter Somdev's game by making the conditions faster and points shorter.
Reports of Leander' injury and eventual withdrawal have not dented the team's confidence. They are going about their business and preparing well for the tie. Captain S.P. Misra kept his cards close to the chest, only saying, "I will reveal our team on Thursday."
The hosts have been here since the past two weeks and have put in rigorous sessions. They will have to rely on their experienced players, Rik De Voest and Wesley Moodie, to take them through.
The teams are no strangers to one another, as Somdev and Rik train together and share the same coach, Scott McCain. Also, South Africa's No.2 player Izak Van Der Merwe played college tennis with Somdev.
The teams seem well prepared and are raring to go, in what promises to be an intriguing tie since both feel they have a great chance to advance to the World Group for 2010.
(The writer is a former India Davis Cup player)