The evening start for the Davis Cup tie against Spain has caught the Indian team by surprise with captain Anand Amritraj calling it an “unfortunate” decision that has compromised the country’s home advantage.
The singles matches will begin at 5pm and the doubles at 7pm as part of the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association’s (DLTA) experiment to bring more fans to the stadium for the World Group Play-off tie.
Non-playing captain Amritraj said neither he nor the players were consulted before the timing was decided for the Play-off-tie, beginning September 16.
He feels that India should have hosted five-time champions Spain under hot and humid conditions instead of the cool evening environment.
“I was not consulted about the timing of the matches and I am pretty sure the players were not either. Rohan did not know about it till I told him. We normally like hot conditions and playing in the evening certainly works better for the Spanish,” Amritraj told PTI.
“I found out the timings of the matches on the Davis Cup website. I think the general feeling is that the Spanish team are so better than us that it doesn’t make much of a difference whether we play in the heat of the day or in the evening. That is unfortunate because we should try to give our team every advantage possible, whether it’s the surface or time of day as we did against Korea. This is Davis Cup and strange things can happen,” fulminated Amritraj.
In an agreement reached with the revolting Indian players in January 2013, the AITA had agreed to consult the captain, who will talk with the players, before finalising the surface and venue of a tie.
Rohan Bopanna, the country’s highest ranked player in doubles at number 17, also confirmed to PTI that neither the timing nor the surface decided upon for the tie was discussed with him.
“I hope there is a large crowd for the matches to support our team, since that seems to be the main reason for the evening schedule,” Amritraj said.
The AITA originally wanted this tie on grass but monsoon season ruled out Kolkata and Chandigarh that had hosted the Korea tie, where rain did cause a bit of trouble by making the grass soggy.
Also for a Play-off tie, a seating capacity of 4000 is a must and only a few Indian venues qualify. Since MSLTA and KSLTA had expressed difficulty in hosting the tie, there weren’t many options available except for Delhi and Chennai.
TNTA’s Karti Chidambaram says since they host Chennai Open, India’s only ATP 250 event, they had funds constraints to conduct Davis Cup which is not profit making.
The new AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee said the players wanted the tie on grass but they were left with no option but to go for Delhi due to the monsoon season. He, however, admitted that no one was consulted for the timings.
“Look we have to be realistic. During Korea tie, our players also struggled in humid conditions. Our players need to be strong enough to sustain in extreme weather conditions. We have taken this decision in the best interest of the country and players. It’s important to have people in the stadium for such a crucial tie,” Chatterjee told PTI.
The 64-year-old Amritraj, who was part of the Indian Davis Cup team that reached the final in 1974, said they needed to play on grass to challenge the formidable Spaniards.
“Of our Playoff draws of the last three years, this is the toughest by far. Serbia and the Czech Republic had one top player (Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych) and they didn’t show up and we still lost. Our best chance was last year when we were 1-1 and India blew the doubles.
“In the latest ranking, Spain have 10 players in the top 50. If we had played on grass anywhere in India, it would certainly have made for a much closer and more interesting tie. But unfortunately, that could not be done,” he said.
Asked if there was any talk on changing the double combination to give youngsters a chance to be on the Davis Cup side, Amritraj said they did have a choice but it was the selection committee that “decided the team”.
“In singles, there were really no other choices with Yuki and Somdev still not fit enough to play. In doubles, there were some choices, but the Committee decided to stay with Rohan and Leander, probably feeling that they were our best hope of winning the doubles,” he said.