Paes, Bopanna in squad for Uzbekistan tie

Paes, Bopanna in squad for Uzbekistan tie

Paes, Bopanna in squad for Uzbekistan tie

In the Davis Cup team captained by Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna has reclaimed his place while Leander Paes has retained his for the Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie against Uzbekistan in Bengaluru, from April 7-9.

However, there is a possibility that only one might feature in the Uzbekistan tie with new captain Mahesh Bhupathi exploring the possibility of 3 singles and one doubles players for the tie.

The six-member squad, which would be trimmed to four two weeks before the tie, include Ramkumar Ramanathan, Yuki Bhambri, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, N Sriram Balaji, Rohan Bopanna and Leander.

Saketh Myneni, who had pulled out of the New Zealand tie in February at the last minute due to toe injury, and Sumit Nagal, also nursing shoulder injury, were unavailable for selection.

“The six are the best we have right now. On the basis of their performance and fitness over the three weeks, the final four would be decided. Fitness is very important as Davis Cup is a physically demanding format,” Bhupathi told Deccan Herald.

“As of now, I can’t commit what combination I would go for. But ideally for a side like Uzbekistan, a 3-1 combination is what I might look for.  I have spoken to all the boys. They have been very supportive, what we are looking here is to build a team and get back to the World Group,” he added.

Against the Denis Istomin-led Uzbekistan, the selectors believed the doubles would play a key role, assuming the World No. 69 pulls off both his singles matches. With both Bopanna and Paes, registering impressive wins with their partners recently, it made selectors difficult to leave either. Ahead of New Zealand tie, Paes’ ranking had dipped, and prompted AITA to announce that future selection would be based on form and ranking.

However, Paes with Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei reached the semifinals of ATP tour event in Delray Beach in February, beating 14-time Grand Slam champions Bryan brothers in the quarterfinals. With Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, he also made the semifinals of Dubai Championships, where they lost to Bopanna and Marcin Matkowski. He gained six places to be ranked 56 behind Bopanna (ranked 23).

The acrimony between Paes and Bopanna is no secret, and reflected in their chemistry during the Rio Games.  The two, however, had scripted a memorable victory in the 2014 World Group play-off against Serbia, where they had bounced back from two sets down.

However, with Bhupathi’s appointment as captain, the AITA is confident that differences and negativity between the players would be appropriately taken care of. The veteran doubles player has already met the players in Dubai. Also, the first-time captain has introduced a slew of measures which include a mandatory fitness test for players in Mumbai by an independent agency before they head to Bengaluru.
DH New Service