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India clutch at straws against Serbia

As a captain, Shiv Prakash Mishra has to clutch on to every straw of hope coming India’s way in their Davis Cup tie against Serbia. Deepti Patwardhan reports.

sports Updated: Mar 04, 2011 02:37 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

As a captain, Shiv Prakash Mishra has to clutch on to every straw of hope coming India’s way in their Davis Cup tie against Serbia. And a pretty sizable one came their way when world number three Novak Djokovic decided to give the World Group first round a skip.

The result: it will be Viktor Troicki, Serbia’s hero in last year’s final against France, who will open the team's defence against India No.2 Rohan Bopanna in Novi Sad on Friday. Somdev Devvarman will take on Janko Tipsarevic in the second singles.

“We are hoping to win at least one of the matches,” Mishra told HT from Serbia. “Honestly, we would have liked Somdev to start, he’s our number one player and if he won there would be less pressure on Rohan.”

On the face of it, the first game between Troicki and Bopanna, looks like a mismatch given the disparity in the rankings, Troicki’s 18 to Bopanna’s 629. To make matters more difficult, Mishra thinks, with the indoor-hard courts playing slow and low, the Indian's major weapon — the serve — could be severely blunted.

“But don’t underestimate Rohan,” Mishra warned. “He played very well against South Africa (World Group play-off, 2009) and against Brazil (World Group play-off, 2009). He’s a very good singles player, though he’s not getting much of a chance to show that because he’s concentrating on doubles.

“Troicki is their No.1 player and so the pressure will be on him to deliver, in front of the home crowd.”

Devvarman, meanwhile, will be looking to turn the tables on Tipsarevic. The two times they have faced each other, the Serbian has come out unscathed — having not dropped a single set. But Tipsarevic is wary of the Indian.

“Neither match was a walk in the park and I expect a tough encounter again,” Tipsarevic said at a press conference.

His team captain Bogdan Obradovic concurred: “We are the favourites but sometimes it can be very difficult to beat rivals who have nothing to lose. We are not going to underestimate India because that could be a costly mistake, they are a nation with a tennis history much longer than ours.”

The Serbs have another point to prove as they begin the defence of their Davis Cup title.

"It’s definitely a great opportunity for all of us to show that we are a strong team even if Djokovic is not here," added Tipsarevic. http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/040311/04_03_11-metro-20.jpg