There is a palpable sense of optimism in the Indian camp. A 5-0 victory in Davis Cup, irrespective of the opponent, can do that.
Having blanked the Indonesian team in the second round last year to retain their place in Group I, the Indian boys repeated the feat against Chinese Taipei after Saketh Myneni and Yuki Bhambri raced to straight-set victories in their respective reverse singles matches on Sunday.
Myneni, who had made his Davis Cup debut in the doubles rubber on Saturday, needed only 45 minutes to pack off Taipei’s top player Tsung-Hua Yang 6-1, 6-4. Bhambri, who had got the ball rolling for India in the first singles on Friday, returned to close out the job, beating Hsien-Yin Peng 7-5, 6-0 in 58 minutes.
“Every win builds your confidence, especially one like this in a Davis Cup,” said the 26-year-old Myneni who couldn’t have asked for a better outing to win his India jersey.
It was, as India’s top player Somdev Devvarman had suggested on the eve of the tie, a ‘baby step’ towards that World Group. Devvarman knows what it takes, having guided India to the elite 16-member division in 2009.
The next step will see them take on South Korea in South Korea in April. With Korea’s best singles player, Yong-Kyu Lim, ranked 302 it looks like another joyride on paper.
“But I’m told India have never beaten Korea in Korea,” said India’s non-playing captain, Anand Amritraj, of India’s 3-6 record against Korea. “There’s always a first time.”
The climate and conditions in Korea have proved too difficult for travelling Indian teams to overcome so far. And if they do so this time, they are likely to run into one of the better teams in the world in the play-offs.
But Devvarman and the 21-year-old Bhambri, who is riding a wave of success this month, have given them the belief that they can make the grade again. India haven’t had it this good in singles in the last decade or so.
In Devvarman, they already have a top-100 quality player who can take the fight to any opponent. Bhambri’s recent success, especially his performance at the Chennai Open where he beat two top-100 players to make the quarterfinals, could give India just that added edge.
“This Indian team has a great unity, great spirit,” Vijay Amritraj had said after India sealed victory over Chinese Taipei on Saturday. “Most of the players we have are at a physical age where they are able to get the best of their ability. They definitely can make it to the World Group.”
With two of the best teams in the Asia-Oceania zone — Japan and Australia — qualifying for the World Group this year, India also possibly have had the best chance of getting out of Group I and making it to the World Group play-offs. But be it beating the depleted Chinese Taipei side — their top two players missed the trip — or competing in the weakened section of the Group I draw, India have cashed in on their opportunities splendidly so far.