Against Spain, time ripe for Saketh Myneni to become India’s mainstay | tennis | Hindustan Times
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Against Spain, time ripe for Saketh Myneni to become India’s mainstay

With the more experienced Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri sidelined due to injuries, time is ripe for Myneni to establish himself as a mainstay.

tennis Updated: Sep 01, 2016 11:21 IST
Gaurav Bhatt
Davis Cup
Saketh Myneni, of India, returns a shot to Jiri Vesely, of the Czech Republic, during the first round of the US Open tennis tournament, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)(AP)

If India are to pull off an upset against the heavyweights Spain in the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie to be played in the Capital from 16-18th September, they would need everything to go their way; not the least of which is their top-ranked player’s performance.

Saketh Myneni’s inspired run at the Flushing Meadows couldn’t have come at a better time for the team. With the more experienced Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri sidelined due to injuries, time is ripe for Myneni to establish himself as a mainstay.

After winning three qualifying matches without dropping a set, Myneni made his first ATP maindraw appearance at the US Open – the ‘home Grand Slam’ for the 28-year-old who made his name on the American collegiate circuit. What’s more, he looked on course for a second-round meeting with world No 1 Novak Djokovic before severe cramps saw him lose a grueling five-setter against 49th-ranked Jiri Vesely of Czech Republic.

Not one to dwell on the past, Myneni is already looking forward to the next challenge.

“There have been a lot of positives from this run. The confidence of having played some high-quality tennis against a top-50 opponent will help me going forward,” Myneni told HT over the phone. “It is good preparation but the Davis Cup tie remains a tough challenge as Spain are mighty powerhouses.”

The ‘powerhouses’ in question have won the competition five times and were part of the World Group from 1997 to 2014. And though presence of superstar Rafael Nadal is subject to his left wrist holding up to the rigours of season’s last Grand Slam, Spain are spoilt for choice, with ten men ranked in the top-50.

Unbeaten

The good news for world No 143 Myneni is that he is yet to lose a Davis Cup singles rubber. The bad news? He’s only played two.

In his first live rubber, against South Korea in July, Myneni showed true grit to brave crippling cramps and prevailed when his opponent fell victim to the harsh Chandigarh conditions. Post match, Myneni threw his soaked t-shirt and a celebratory punch in the air and was hoisted by teammates, scenes he isn’t going to forget in a hurry.

“I have always loved the Davis Cup experience. The team environment is a completely different atmosphere, one which is very special to me because of my time playing in United States (for University of Alabama),” said Myneni. “At a Grand Slam, it’s more an individual progress and game even though you are kind of putting your country on the map. But you truly represent your nation in the Davis Cup.”

In a fortnight’s time, Myneni will be back at the DLTA hard court where he reached the final of Delhi Open Challenger earlier this year. The last two five-setters Myneni has played have seen him hobble off, though floodlights are expected to bring some relief. A strong showing will not just help India’s case, but will also be another step towards the upper echelons of the sport.