Young guns look to make it count
With new captain Mahesh Bhupathi laying down his principles in strong fashion and pinning his hopes predominantly on singles players rather than doubles specialists, a young Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran will step out at the KSLTA not only carrying huge expectations but hoping to make a mark themselves as the team takes a new direction.
Although India have been hit by injuries to key players like Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni and the build-up scarred by another unsavoury episode in the long-running feud between Bhupathi and veteran Leander Paes, India couldn’t have hoped for a better opponent as they seek to gain promotion to World Group play-off.
While Ramkumar and Prajnesh are ranked 267 and 287 in the world with the latter making his Davis Cup debut, Uzbekistan’s two nominated singles players — Sanjar Fayziev and Temur Ismailov— are ranked much lower, placed 376 and 406 respectively. Ramkumar will play Ismailov in the opening singles while Prajnesh will clash with Fayziev in the second singles on Friday.
Even in Saturday’s doubles where Rohan Bopanna will be pairing up with second debutant N Sriram Balaji, India have it somewhat evenly matched with Uzbekistan fielding Farrukh Dustov and Fayziev. Seasoned Dustov was out of the circuit for six months last year after fracturing his right hand and is making his comeback in this event while Fayziev is ranked 437 in doubles, leaving this tie intriguingly poised.
“The conditions here are really fast so we are going into the tie with four very big servers,” said Bhupathi, optimistic he will begin his captaincy journey on a victorious note. “All four boys here can serve at 130+ miles an hour so we want to take advantage of the conditions. They (team) have been practicing here since Sunday so they are used to the conditions. Two of them are making their debut but they’ve got the whole team behind them. We are going to give it a good shot.”
An interesting aspect about this tie is that rival players have not met each other on the ITF as well the ATP circuit. With Uzbekistan singles players still cutting their teeth on the international scene, the Indian think tank have been pouring through their videos on the internet to gain an understanding of their playing style.
Another major factor that will decide this contest is the way the players handle fatigue considering majority of them have hardly played best-of-five games.
Although the ties will be played in the evening, the humidity has not been kind and the team that shows the staying power and stronger nerves in this battle of the unkown will emerge triumphant.
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