'We need to be aggressive'

'We need to be aggressive'

Tennis Davis Cup: India will have to begin on a bright note against Uzbekistan, says Ramkumar

'We need to be aggressive'
Even before the Indians could kick-start their opening practice session on Sunday for their Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I second round tie against Uzbekistan this weekend, they were hit by the pull-out of their premier singles player Yuki Bhambri due to injury.

While the former Australian Open Junior champion’s exit could hurt India — who have been rocked by injuries to a couple of other key players — it presents another opportunity for young Ramkumar Ramanathan to seal his place in the side.

Aware that he will most likely be entrusted with leading India’s challenge in singles, the 22-year-old said he’ll take the court with an aggressive intent. “There’s always pressure in any Davis Cup contest. It’s always going to be tough to start but the start is very important and we should be really ready by practising these 3-4 days. We need to play a lot of sets and get sharp before the tie,” said Ramkumar just before the team’s practice session under floodlights at the KSLTA courts.

“As always I’ll try my best. The courts are really fast, like it was in Pune (against New Zealand earlier this year). The matches can change very fast so we need to be very alert. We need to play aggressive.”

Uzbekistan will be pinning their hopes largely on Denis Istomin, the World No 70 who stunned 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia at this year’s Australian Open.

Ramkumar, however, wasn’t concerned about facing Istomin who reached a career-high ranking of 33 in 2012.

“It is going to be tough irrespective of who the opponent is. The courts are playing fast. We need to play to our strengths. (Sanjar) Fayziev is also good and of course (Farrukh) Dustov is a very experienced player. So it’s going to be a close game. 

“I haven’t played any of them. I've seen Fayziev on tour. I was supposed to play him in the semis once but he pulled out. They all play well. I watched Fayziev play in Doha. He’s a very quick and good player. He played five sets against (Korean World No 92) Hyeon Chung, so he should be very good to do that. Let's see what happens.”

Ramkumar, who first hit the headlines in 2014 when he qualified for the main draw of the Chennai Open and ousted Somdev Devvarman in the first round, felt the elevation of Mahesh Bhupathi as non-playing captain would augur well for the younger crop.

“It’s just been a day but Mahesh is a great person. He wants the best for us. Mahesh has played a lot of ties. He knows exactly what to do on-court and off-court. So I think it will help us. I think it’s going to be good.”

Having played in four Davis Cup ties (six matches), Ramkumar felt competing in the team event is a wonderful learning lesson for youngsters like him.

“It’s been amazing so far. It’s a team event and you have all your players, so they push you a lot. You are always tuned into the match. Staying focused is easier with so many people supporting you from the outside and people also cheering you.”