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India to play Russian roulette in Davis Cup

sports Updated: Sep 24, 2009 02:46 IST
Deepti Patwardhan
Deepti Patwardhan
Hindustan Times
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Russia are set to welcome India back into the World Group, after an absence of 11 years, with indoor clay courts, freezing conditions and hostile crowds in the wait. The two countries will meet in the first round of the 2010 World Group from March 5-7, according to the draw held in Geneva on Wednesday.

“We could've got a better draw,” India's non-playing captain, S.P. Misra said. “We are not worried about the players, but about the cold and playing on clay indoors.

“The temperature will be minus something at that time of the year and playing on slow clay will be difficult. We will go early and try and get used to the conditions. But when the surface is not to your liking, no amount of practice is enough!”

Russia, twice former champions, have won the last 16 home ties, a run that began in 1996. Their most preferred surface has been indoor clay.

And if the conditions are unforgiving, their playing unit, led by the flamboyant Marat Safin and the stoic Nikolay Davydenko, has had a mean look. Safin could be unavailable if he sticks to his retirement plans but the hosts would still have a variety-Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny, Igore Andreev and Dmitry Tursunov (all in the top-100)-to choose from.

India's best, Somdev Devvarman is currently ranked 131. “We have drawn an extremely tough team in the first round,” Somdev said. “It's going to be a daunting task for us. Having said that, I feel in Davis Cup everyone has a chance and we will have to prepare really well to take on the giants of the competition over the last five-six years. We will all have to play our best tennis if we have to beat them in their backyard.”

India have a winning 2-1 record over Russia, but that could easily change this time.

I can still do it: Henin

Limelette (Belgium): Former world number one Justine Henin vowed on Wednesday to return to the top of women's tennis after deciding to come out of self-imposed retirement.

“Today I'm aware that there is more than just tennis,” the seven-time Grand Slam winner said at her tennis school here in central Belgium. “But tennis is what I do best. I'm 27 and still physically capable. Now the hard work starts. I'm going to have to get back the confidence and go through stages which I'd forgotten about,” Henin said.

“Time is on my side. But it'll be a long road. I like challenge. Ambition is part of me.”

AFP