BENGALURU: Ahead of India’s Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group I tie against Uzbekistan at the KSLTA Stadium here, the camp is plagued by injuries. Both singles specialists Yuki Bhambri and Vishnu Vardhan are out.
This leaves Ramkumar Ramanathan as the only experienced singles player left to challenge a strong Uzbek side that features World No 71 Denis Istomin. But Ramkumar is unperturbed about the possibility of facing the latter on Day 1 of the tie.
“Whether he comes or not, it’s going to be tough. Uzbekistan has Fayziev (Sanjar), who is also good, and Dustov (Farrukh), an experienced player. So it’s going to be a close tie,” Ramkumar opined.
“There’s always pressure during the Davis Cup. It’s always tough at the start, which is important, and we have to be ready by making most of practice sessions the next 3-4 days.
Ranked 267th in singles currently, Ramkumar stressed on playing aggressive tennis. “We should get ready to play lots of sets, and practice well, as the courts are fast, like in Pune. Matches can change fast, so we need to be alert and play aggressive,” he noted.
With injury being the main concern, Ramkumar said he had been cautious during practise, and was working on injury prevention. “I’ve been playing tournaments, so I’ve not been able to push myself on fitness. Whenever I lose early in events, I work on upper body strength for a day at least,” he revealed.
Apart from injuries, the 22-year-old has also been struggling with form. Over the last few tournaments, he hasn’t been able to progress into the main draw. So he has been working on his backhand to get back to winning ways. “I need to improve my backhand, which I’ve been working a lot on. I also have to play more aggressive, and have to use the slice a lot here. And of course, you need to use your legs a lot on these types of courts, otherwise the ball will fly,” he said.
In the absence of Bhambri, India’s non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi must pick from either of the doubles specialists — Rohan Bopanna or Leander Paes. While Bopanna has already joined the squad, Paes is expected to join on Tuesday. The Chennai lad will have to partner either of them in the doubles rubber. But he left the choice of combination on the captain. “I’m ready to partner anyone,” he said.
This will be his fourth Davis Cup, and Ramkumar is confident of a good show. “It’s a team event, so your teammates push you a lot. You’re always into the match, and staying focussed is easier with people supporting you.”