Sanam Singh overcame an injury scare to beat Vishnu Vardhan 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of ITF men's Futures tournament at the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.
Ranked 776, Sanam was the underdog going into the match, but the way he got the better of Vardhan, India's third highest-ranked player in singles at 332, despite twisting his ankle could open up some options for the All India Tennis Association (AITA) when they sit to select the team for the Davis Cup tie in Uzbekistan, in April.
While Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, all ranked in the top-20 in doubles, have given India the edge in that department, Somdev Devvarman has often been left alone to carry the singles challenge. In the last three years, the team has tried out Karan Rastogi, Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan and Bopanna as the second singles player but without much success.
And if rankings are to be the priority, Sanam, who is resuming his pro-career after a stint on the US College circuit, might have to wait a little longer.
"Yes, form and performance are important but one has to see the rankings also," said India's non-playing Davis Cup captain SP Mishra. "You cannot be ranked higher if you don't play and win matches. Right now Sanam is in focus along with others. But winning in Futures and playing Davis Cup are a different ball game altogether. He needs to establish himself and improve his rankings."
Davis Cup coach Nandan Bal sounded a word of caution against rushing the 24-year-old into the team. "Sanam is a hard working guy," Bal said. "He has proved his potential in the (2010) Asian Games with gold (doubles) and a bronze (team event) medal. It will surely open up choices for the selectors. We now have three choices apart from Devvarman-Vishnu, Yuki and Sanam. But we also have to see that Sanam is just starting out in the circuit after finishing collegiate tennis. He needs more time to establish himself."
Senior tennis coach Akhtar Ali also believes Sanam is a "polished player but he will have to prove himself."
After a brief spell in the elite 16-team World Group, India dropped back in the Asia-Oceania zone Group I following a 1-4 loss to Japan.