India eye a rich haul from aces in the pack

Somdev, Bopanna to lead tennis challenge

India eye a rich haul from aces in the pack

Indians have been on a high for the last few months and if they can add the CWG tennis medal, preferably of the golden hue, to their kitty then 2010 will certainly be remembered as one of the most memorable seasons. That tennis is making its debut in the CWG adds to the significance of the occasion.

There is no bigger attraction in Indian tennis at the moment than Rohan Bopanna. The Bangalorean reached the final of the US Open with his partner from Pakistan, Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi.

With Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi slowly drifting into the twilight zone, Indian tennis needed a new beacon and the Kodava lad has provided exactly that with his fine effort in the season’s last Grand Slam.

But a bigger spark came a week back when India outpunched Brazil in Chennai to enter the World Group of the Davis Cup. A canter for Brazil loomed when Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman lost the singles ties, but Lee-Hesh duo rediscovered its old magic to pull one back for India and egged on by the two seniors, Somdev and Bopanna scripted one of the most astounding comebacks in India’s Davis Cup history.

Traditionally, Indian players have done well in team competitions like the Davis Cup and with the CWG too giving emphasis on winning medal for the country, Indians can be expected to go all the way. “We’ve a great chance to win gold in tennis as all the players are in very good form of late and hopefully they can maintain the winning streak,” said Jaideep Mukherjea, the Indian coach. Mukherjea will be assisted by former Davis Cuppers Enrico Piperno and Nandan Bal during the October 3-14 event.

There will be five gold on offer in tennis competition in the quadrennial mega event and India is a strong contender for them, fielding experienced candidates in all categories. Paes-Bhupathi duo will compete in the doubles while in the mixed doubles Paes will partner Sania Mirza.

Bopanna and Nirupama Sanjeev, who is expected to reach from the US on Thursday, will form India’s second mixed doubles pair. Besides competing in singles, Bopanna and Somdev will also feature in the men’s doubles while Rushmi Chakravarthi and Poojasree Venkatesh will be India’s lone entry in the women’s doubles.

Sania will not feature in the doubles as playing three events within a week will be a more than adaptable workload for her.  “We have in-form and experienced candidates in all the categories and we are confident of tackling all the challenges that await us. These players have experience of playing in high pressure situations at every level. So, I guess we have good chance to end up at the podium,” Mukherjea said.

While doubles seems to be India’s best chance to bag medals in the CWG, the form Bopanna and Somdev showed in the Davis Cup fuels hope of more medals. Bopanna had stated that he wanted to focus more doubles, but he responded splendidly when the situation demanded a gritty effort from him. “His form has been encouraging, both in doubles and singles. If they can keep their focus then there is no reason why Bopanna and Somdev can add to India’s gold tally in the CWG,” said former Davis Cupper Vishal Uppal, who is also personal coach of Somdev during the Games.

However, it will not be a cakewalk for Indians in the CWG. Though the traditional powerhouses like England and Australia are fielding only experimental sides, Indians will face tough challenge from South African and Canadian players.
But at the moment, it’s advantage India.

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