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Davis Cup: Onus on youngsters

sports Updated: Mar 03, 2011 02:26 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

What are the odds? India are up against Serbia, the defending champions, in Serbia's second-biggest city of Novi Sad in the World Group first round tie to be held over the weekend.

Though doubts linger over Novak Djokovic's participation, he is, as of now, on the team list. Even if Djokovic does not play, the hosts have Viktor Troicki (world number 18) and Janko Tipsarevic (No 45) ready for singles duty -- both are ranked higher than top Indian Somdev Devvarman (93). http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/030311/03_03_11-metro-24b.jpg

If that was not enough, India's strongest chance of getting a point faded out with both Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi making themselves unavailable for the tie due to injuries. It is for the first time since Mahesh Bhupathi made his debut in 1995, that neither he nor Paes will be present for a Davis Cup tie.

A day after Paes announced that he'd be sitting out due to an old wrist injury, which has flared up again, Bhupathi pulled out with a neck niggle he picked up in Dubai at last week's ATP event.

"Their absence is definitely a negative point for us," non-playing Indian captain SP Mishra told HT from Serbia. "Their experience would have been very helpful. But the boys have to take responsibility now."

Youngsters Karan Rastogi and Yuki Bhambri have been thrust in as replacements. But Mishra informed that Somdev and Bopanna would be playing the doubles.

The last time Mumbai player Rastogi played in a Cup tie was when India toured Kazakhstan for an Asia Oceania Group I tie in April 2007.

Yuki Bhambri made his India debut in the World Group play-off against South Africa in 2009, which put the team in the big league after a gap of 11 years. But the youngster, who trains at the Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida, declined to be in the team after that if he were not played. "We have been practicing here since Monday," added Mishra. "It's snowing here right now. The court (indoor-hard) is slow since it's made of wooden surface."