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Davis Cup, India vs New Zealand: Saketh Myneni out, Vishnu Vardhan to partner Paes

Yuki Bhambri is set to open India’s Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie vs New Zealand No. 1 Finn Tearney on Friday afternoon. Ramkumar Ramanathan will take on Jose Statham in the second singles. Vishnu Vardhan will pair up with Leander Paes in the doubles.

tennis Updated: Feb 02, 2017 15:27 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times, Pune
Davis Cup,India vs New Zealand Davis Cup tie,India vs New Zealand
In he absence of Saket Myneni, Ramkumar Ramanathan will spearhead India’s challenge as the No 1 singles player against New Zealand in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie starting on Friday. Vishnu Vardhan will partner with Leander Paes in the doubles.(AFP/Getty Images)

India’s campaign to get back into the Davis Cup World Group Playoffs received an unexpected jolt when their highest ranked singles player, Saketh Myneni, aggravated an old injury ahead of Thursday’s draw for the Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie against New Zealand.

The nature of his injury was not clear but Myneni will not play in the crucial tie in Pune, winning which India would move a step closer to the World Group Playoffs.

India lost to Spain in World Group Playoff last year, once again missing a chance of making it to the elite group that play in the final rounds of the prestigious men’s team event.

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The AITA got cracking late on Wednesday and flew in Vishnu Vardhan as replacement for Myneni before the draw that was held on Thursday at the Shiv Chhattrapati Sports Complex at Balewadi in Pune.

India got a good draw for the tie with Yuki Bhambri set to open the proceedings against Kiwi No. 1 Finn Tearney on Friday afternoon.

Ramkumar Ramanathan, India No1 in the absence of the injured Myneni, will take on New Zealand’s Jose Statham in the second singles. Vardhan will pair up with Leander Paes in the crucial doubles on Saturday.

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This settles the issue for India as Bhambri and Ramanathan can concentrate on singles while Paes will also feel comfortable as he had combined well with Vardhan at the London Olympics in 2012.

The doubles tie is very crucial for Paes as he needs one win to achieve the record for the most number of doubles wins in the history of Davis Cup. He is at the moment tied on 42 wins with Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy. The 43-year-old only hoped that he would get the best partner to get the record. He said he was fit and good for two more Grand Slam titles and have nothing more to prove.

Myneni will be missed

Myneni at 205 was the highest ranked singles player on both sides and was expected to carry India’s campaign on his shoulders, playing both singles and doubles. There were attempts to get him ready to partner Leander Paes in the crucial doubles against a very strong New Zealand combination but common sense prevailed and Myneni will sit out the tie.

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New Zealand’s two singles players Tearney and Statham, at 414 and 417, are much lower ranked but in the absence of Myneni, the Kiwis will fancy their chances.

The question now is whether young Ramanathan will be able to shoulder this huge responsibility of leading the Indian campaign in the singles? He did have a good time at the Chennai Open but reached Pune in indifferent mood, according to Paes. “His shoulders were slouched and he looked unhappy. I had a pep talk with him and now he is raring to go,” Paes said as his teammate from Tamil Nadu had an extended session on Wednesday afternoon.

First Published: Feb 02, 2017 14:10 IST