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Paes’ pullout a big setback for Indian tennis team

sports Updated: Sep 16, 2009 00:26 IST
Deepti Patwardhan
Deepti Patwardhan
Hindustan Times
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The triumph at the US Open doubles has come at a heavy price for Leander Paes. The 36-year-old, India's most successful player, has officially pulled out of the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie against South Africa due to injuries.

“I have had a sore wrist for some time now and that has been compounded by my shoulder and elbow pain at the US Open,” Paes said on Tuesday.

“ I hate to miss Davis Cup but as of now I have no option as my doctor has told me that it will take at least two weeks for my arm to recover,” he said.

“I do not want to go into a tie as crucial as this in the shape I am in as I will be just a liability for the team. I am sad that it has come to this but my injuries allow me no other option,” the tennis player said.

Paes has been the bedrock of Indian challenge in the team event for almost two decades.

He is just six wins short of Italian Nicola Pietrangeli's record number of Davis Cup doubles rubbers wins.

The last time he missed a tie was in Italy during 1998, in the first round of World Group.

The absence of the veteran will further deplete the Indian team, which is attempting to break through into the 16-team World Group for the first time since 1998.

Doubts already persist over the fitness of the second singles player, Rohan Bopanna, who is coming back after a knee surgery.

The management had said they would assess Bopanna's fitness in South Africa before putting him into the ring.

It is now likely that along with the singles, Bopanna will have to carry out doubles duty with Mahesh Bhupathi.

The combination seems decent, not invincible - Paes-Bhupathi are on a record unbeaten streak of 22. And they will be up against the experienced Wesley Moodie and Jeff Coetzee.

Though South Africa are missing their no.1 player in Kevin Anderson, who opted out of the tie, the hosts are an in-form team presently, having won the last 10 ties.

South Africa blanked FYR Macedonia and Belarus 5-0 this year and will test India at the high-altitude Ellis Park Indoor arena.

The change in Indian squad may also translate into a Cup debut for Yuki Bhambri, who was originally included as a reserve player.