Davis Cup: India, reeling under controversies, take on New Zealand today

The usual doubles team musical chair and selection controversies have married India tennis team’s build up for their Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie against New Zealand, which begins in Pune on Friday.

tennis Updated: Feb 03, 2017 11:12 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times, Pune
Davis Cup,Davis Cup India vs New Zealand,Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1
Yuki Bhambri during a training session at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune on Thursday ahead India’s Davis Cup Asia\Oceania Group 1 tie against New Zealand. Bhambri will play Kiwi No. 1 Finn Tearney in the opening match at 3pm on Friday.(AFP)

The buildup to the India’s Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie against New Zealand was marred by controversies which stretched till the match eve.

First the selectors controversially dropped Rohan Bopanna,India’s highest ranked doubles player in the ATP list, citing various reasons. One of the reasons was that both Bopanna andLeander Paes, their preferred choice as doubles specialist despite being ranked lower than couple of others, play on the deuce court because of which their pairing was not ideal.

The selectors also left out young Sumit Nagal, citing unsubstantiated disciplinary issues.

Read more | Leander Paes chase record as India take on New Zealand in Davis Cup encounter

The team management and All India Tennis Association (AITA) were forced to find a replacement forthe injured Saketh Myneni, finally zeroing on Vishnu Vardhan after Bopanna reportedly refused to make a dash to Pune without an offer being made officially (read in written form).

The result is that Anand Amritraj’s team goes into Friday’s opening singles rubber between Yuki Bhambri and Kiwi No. 1 Finn Tearney without their top ranked singles player and banking on their fifth (or is it sixth) choice doubles combination of Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan.

While this soap opera left a bad taste in the mouth, things should look better for India when Bhambri, who had missed the last two ties because of an injury, steps onto the court in a few hours from now.

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The Delhi youngster is ranked 368 in singles while Tearney is at 414. Bhambri had recently played in New Zealand and got the better of top local players, so the feeling in the Indian camp is that he should prevail with a lot left in the tank.

In the second singles on Friday, Ramkumar Ramanathan plays Jose Statham and enjoys a ranking advantage of 141 over his rival. But Statham is their most experienced player in Davis Cup and capable of causing an upset unless Ramkumar is at his best.

Read more | Rafael Nadal left out of Spain Davis Cup squad

Considering the home conditions and ranking advantage of their singles players, India should be leading 2-0 at the end of the day.

But in Davis Cup players usually punch above their weight and the Indians have to be careful. While they had a tumultuous buildup to the tie, New Zealand players went quietly about gearing up for the tie. They reached Pune early and have got acclimatized to the conditions well.

Can they capitalize on the stability in their team and buildup to cause couple of surprises?

First Published: Feb 03, 2017 11:12 IST