That the heat is on was evident almost as soon as the Czechs took to the DLTA hardcourts on Monday afternoon. Minutes into the practice session, Radek Stepanek was lying prostrate in the shade. He got up, only to walk off after a five-minute hitting session. "The first days are always tough," said the 36-year-old. "We reached at 4am and there is some jetlag. But we have four days to prepare."
With the temperature close to 36°C and humidity even at a moderate 49%, Stepanek — who won the deciding fifth rubbers in Czech Republic’s successful 2012 and 2013 campaigns — was visibly struggling, with what seemed like buckets of sweat pouring down his head. The 10am and noon starts are not going to make it any easier. But while his body told a different story, Stepanek chose to play down the impact of heat.
"The weather is very similar to what it was in the US Open and the place where I live, Florida."
Rohan Bopanna, who will partner Leander Paes for the doubles, believes Czechs will need time to adapt even though they are coming from New York. "No two conditions are exactly the same," said Bopanna. "It is the same for us and them. This will be my first match in Delhi after 2010, and even I will have to adapt."
And while both Stepanek and Bopanna will be engaged in playing doubles, India’s non-playing captain Anand Amritraj said that heat would be especially tough on the singles competitors: "It’d be slightly easier for Stepanek as he is playing doubles. But the weather is definitely going to be a significant factor during the singles."
Amritraj’s assessment was affirmed by world No 48 Jiri Vesely. While he nonchalantly declined the offer to move into the shade, the 6'6" Czech admitted the heat could prove to be an advantage for the hosts. "Playing 3-4 hours in this extreme humidity will be tricky," said the 22-year-old who reached the third round of the US Open. “I’ve been in India before and have played in Chennai. But this is worse."
All said and done though, the contest could boil down to the most successful Indian Davis Cupper — Paes. "It will be interesting to see Leander on the other side of the court," said Stepanek, who won the Australian Open and US Open with the Indian. "Leander is half Czech because he has won half of his Grand Slams with Czechs."