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Davis Cup: Outlook bleak as India prepare for mighty Spain

tennis Updated: Sep 12, 2016 12:54 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Sukhwant Basra
Hindustan Times
Davis Cup

Saketh Myneni during a practice session of Davis Cup at Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA).(Arun Sharma/HT PHOTO)

Kinesio tape swathes the contours of Saketh Myneni’s right shoulder. Those are the shoulders on which India’s marginal hopes rest in the Davis Cup tie against Spain starting on Friday.

Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase invented the technique of kinesio taping over three decades ago. It has started becoming increasingly popular in the sports world over the last decade. The tape is applied on the skin and is purported to aid ailing muscle by providing support.

Myneni and India need all the support possible against the might of the Spanish who have fielded their best with world number five Rafael Nadal and No 13 David Ferrer leading the charge. There is no need to illustrate the prowess of these great players who are household names in any tennis playing nation.

NO HOPES

Meanwhile, India fields Myneni (143 in the world) and Ramkumar Ramanathan (202), who are yet to be household names in their own nation. This is a no-hope tie. Let’s just say that and get it out of the way. We can allude to possible miracles; we can conjure fantastical calculations to bolster our miniscule chances but the fact of the matter is that even if the local conditions somehow cripple the Spaniards and they quail in the face of a boisterous crowd, India will need legs with certain vigour to carry it through this tie. Our two men don’t have them.

Ramkumar Ramanathan during a practice session of Davis Cup. (Arun Sharma/HT PHOTO)

This belief certainly took firm hold of the national association as it did not try overly hard to hold this tie on grass – a surface the clay-reared Spaniards would have struggled on. After all, our grass is not the plush true-bounding type Wimbledon has. We specialise in making minefields. You know the kind that made unpredictable low bounce our greatest asset in Davis Cup. Then, there was always the sapping weather.

The sun coupled with humidity would tame many a foreign player provided the guy on the other side hung in there. The latter bit is the crucial aspect. You can rig courts but you can’t rig legs. In the not-so-recent past it took a Paes with his warrior heart astride those magically fast feet to grind down players. This tie though will be played under floodlights.

Myneni has shown heart. Especially of late as he has gone up the rankings and even qualified for the US Open singles. But at 28, he is still to grow the kind of physique he needs if he is to really perform at the higher levels of international tennis. He has a great attitude and brings cheer to the team with his beaming positivity.

But no amount of attitude can tame a player who has 14 Grand Slam singles titles (Nadal). Ferrer may not have won a Slam but then he has been part of a team which has won three Davis Cup titles and has been ranked as high as three in the world. He has 26 ATP tour titles. Our singles guys have none.

The Indian Davis Cup team is struggling. We have lost two of our key players – Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri – to injuries. Discipline in the team has been a real cause for worry. To add to it all, the captain and the coach have been found at times to be voicing opinions that would be best left to private communications with the national body.

The benefits of kinesio tape are debatable. Since it does not really cover the expanse of the muscle – which is deep below the skin – there is a belief that it’s largely a placebo. Just like talk of a win here against Spain. Both are temporary aids to lift the mood of the present; they don’t promise much for the future.