Anand Amritraj could have done without one dilemma in his final outing as India’s Davis Cup captain against New Zealand in the Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie starting on Friday.
The selectors have given him a team comprising three singles players – Saketh Myneni, Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan – and a lone doubles specialist in Leander Paes. Amritraj now has to decide which of his singles players to pair with Paes for Saturday’s doubles clash against a strong New Zealand combination of Michael Venus (ranked 36) and Artem Sitak (56).
Myneni at 205 is the highest ranked singles player on both sides with Ramkumar (276) and Bhambri (368) as the next best. New Zealand’s two singles players Finn Tearney and Jose Statham at 414 and 417 are much lower ranked. In terms of doubles, India’s best bet seems Paes pairing with Myneni (ranked 209 in doubles), considering their superb performance against Olympic champions Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez in the World Group play-off tie against Spain in September.
Ideally, Amritraj would hope that Myneni gets to play the first singles on Friday so that he gets enough rest before the doubles encounter. However, in case that does not happen, the team may have to reassess its position at the end of the first day.
They may have to take a tough call and pair Paes with Bhambri or even Ramkumar to preserve Myneni if the outcome of the tie hinges on Sunday’s reverse singles. Considering that Myneni is carrying some niggles, would he be able to take the load of playing three matches? That is the question confronting the Indians on eve of the draw.
Amritraj kept cards close to his chest when he said that they would take a call on the doubles combination only on Friday night. “We will assess the situation after the singles matches,” he said.
Paes too played safe when asked whether he would prefer a partner who is fresh or one who has played a singles encounter. He talked about his partnership with Myneni against Nadal and Lopez and how the youngster has started taking the lead role, suggesting things they can do.
The doubles tie is very crucial for Paes as he needs one win to achieve the record for the most number of doubles wins in the history of Davis Cup. He is at the moment tied on 42 wins with Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy. The 43-year-old only hoped that he would get the best partner to get the record. He said he was fit and good for two more Grand Slam titles and have nothing more to prove.