Spotlight firmly on debutants Ranjeet, Vijayant

When India take on South Korea on Friday, all eyes will be on Ranjeet Virali Murugesan and Vijayant Malik — the two singles players who will shoulder country’s hope in the Davis Cup tie.

Both are known faces on the ITF circuit but will be donning the India colours for the first time. They wouldn’t focus into the controversies but would rather relish the opportunity that had come their way.

Ranjeet, a 2008 national champion, had also been part of the reserves during the world-group play-off tie against Brazil in Chennai in 2010. The  27-year-old Chennai player had been training in Germany since 2006 and  also played in the German league. He instantly accepted the challenge of being the No 1 player for India and was eager to give his best for the tie.

“I came here early to acclimatize and I feel now I am ready for the tie ,” Ranjeet told Deccan Herald. “I am just going to do whatever I can.”

The experience of playing on clay could come handy to Ranjeet in the tie which would be played on slow hard courts but he would not count it as an advantage. “I have played a lot in Europe on clay but for most of the time I am playing on hard courts that are fast. But I will use my experience in the best possible way,” he said.

“People say we have not played five sets but we are a bunch of professionals and we are tough. It is more mental than anything else. I am prepared for the long matches.”

Ahead of Davis Cup, Ranjeet took heart from his hard-fought wins. “I have won from situations when I have been down a match point. I am working very hard to be in the best possible shape.  Having a legend like Leander with us has motivated all of us and the support staff has taken a very good care of us.”

A die-hard fan of Arsenal and Rafael Nadal, Ranjeet insisted he was not taking any pressure. “I am not thinking about anything but giving my best. I listen to music to relax.”

In contrast, for a 22-year-old Malik who hails from Panipat, it had been a long journey. He was a product of Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association (CLTA) scheme for rural children during his junior days and for the last three years had shifted base to Delhi, where he was coached by Aditya Sachdeva.

“I am very excited to be the part of the Davis Cup. I thank CLTA for shaping me as a player. With Aditya sir I am only improving. I have learned to manage my injuries and added strength to my body. I feel confident,”said Malik, who won his maiden ITF futures title in Vietnam last year. The gangling boy had a big fan club in Chandigarh and a few of them would be arriving here to root for him on Friday.

“We all used to cheer for each other when were in Chandigarh. Around 30-40 of them are likely to come here tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing them,” he smiled.

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