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The singles option is wide open

When the young Davis Cup team for the New Zealand tie was announced a week ago, word from the selection committee had it that Yuki Bhambri and Vishnu Vardhan were tipped to become the singles ‘specialists’, Sharmistha Chaudhuri reports.

sports Updated: Sep 07, 2012 00:04 IST
Sharmistha Chaudhuri
Sharmistha Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times

When the young Davis Cup team for the New Zealand tie was announced a week ago, word from the selection committee had it that Yuki Bhambri (world No. 188) and Vishnu Vardhan (ranked 263) were tipped to become the singles ‘specialists’.

After all, if ones goes by rankings, the duo hold the top two spots among their Davis Cup team members in the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings chart.

But, Thursday’s events in the Shanghai Challenger may have an effect on the upcoming Davis Cup tie.

Bhambri was beaten by Sanam Singh (No. 402) 6-7 (4), 6-1, 2-6 in the second round of the $50,000 hard court event in China.

Not only has Sanam’s win over his teammate thrown the competition for the two coveted singles berths wide open, but also proved that rankings, in this case, are not an indication of one being better than the rest.

The six youngsters, who’ve made the cut after the seniors became unavailable, are all at par though rankings may indicate otherwise.

How they fare

Bhambri has played the qualifying rounds of Wimbledon and US Open and grabbed his maiden Challenger title at Fergana this year.

Vardhan’s had a good year so far with three Futures singles titles under his belt.

He also made his Olympic debut in London and with Leander Paes as partner, reached the second round.

US-returned 24-year-old Saketh Myneni (No. 380), playing the circuit since last year, has won three and made the final of one Futures title this season.

Divij Sharan (No. 1303) recently won his second doubles Challenger this year — with Bhambri in Busan and recently, in Bangkok, partnering Vardhan.

N Sriram Balaji (No. 375) has two Futures to his credit this season.

Sanam, who made his debut Davis Cup debut against Uzbekistan in April, won three back-to-back Futures titles before that.

The 24-year-old from Chandigarh seems to be following in the footsteps of good friend Somdev Devvarman.

Unlike many former players trying to accumulate points by playing a lot of tournaments, he plays selective big ones.

No guarantee

The past decade saw the singles slots guaranteed with the team depending on Paes.

In the recent years the surface choice was changed to hard from time-favoured grass keeping singles hope Devvarman in mind.

With Paes putting World Team Tennis ahead of Davis Cup duty and Devvarman out for an unclassified period of time with a shoulder injury, the scenario stands different today.

“The singles places do not depend on rankings, but on the captain’s decision. He will have to take the final call on which player is best suited against which opponent,” says national selector Rohit Rajpal.

Captain SP Misra adds: “We have four singles players and either one can play. Once we get together and assess their fitness levels, only then we can come up with a right combination. I’m keeping an open mind.” Akhtar Ali echoes his thoughts.

“Current form must always be considered. Keeping in mind that these are best of five ties, trial matches must be held to gauge the fittest player,” Ali says.

If this young team is the future of Indian Davis Cup then the healthy competition among the members is a good sign.

“We are looking for a situation where no one can take their places in the team as granted. If there are five to six boys who have a healthy rivalry among them, then that’s the way forward,” states coach Nandal Bal.

ht epaper

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