CHENNAI: After India trounced Uzbekistan 4-1 in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group I second round tie in Bengaluru, skipper Mahesh Bhupathi had said: “I think we can give anyone a run for their money. We just need some help from the draw.” Turns out the gods were listening, to some extent.
After facing Serbia (2014), the Czech Republic (2015) and Spain (2016) in three previous Playoff ties, India’s fourth crack at breaking through to the highest level of the team competition will be blocked by Canada, the lowest seed. However, unlike previous match-ups that were held at home, this will be an away tie.
While Canada hold an ace in the form of World No 6 Milos Raonic, the giant hasn’t played a Davis Cup tie since March 2015. He has also been plagued by recurring injuries since last season. Even without him, they have four others (Vasek Pospisil, Peter Polansky, Denis Shapovalov and Steven Diez), all ranked between 100 and 200. In contrast, India’s highest-ranked player is Ramkumar Ramanathan at 269.
The gulf in rankings notwithstanding, a confident Bhupathi suggested the match could be tight.
“It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it. Raonic hasn’t played a tie in two years but even without him, they have good players, including doubles veteran (Daniel) Nestor. It should be quite a challenge for our guys to play an away match — it has been a while. The Canadians usually hold ties indoors, so that’s another thing to keep in mind,” the 42-year-old told Express.
While Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni and Sumit Nagal were injured and, thus, unavailable against Uzbekistan, Bhupathi felt they would all be available for the September 15 to 17 clash. “The only thing that would’ve made me nervous was facing Argentina away. The tie is five months away, so there’s still time. Hopefully, Yuki, Saketh and Sumit will be fit, which will give us a bigger pool to choose from. The same selection criteria — six probables, form and fitness — will apply.”
As things stand, one player who may not even be considered is Leander Paes. Bhupathi’s spat with Paes reached epic proportions in the last few days, with the former putting out a long post on social media as well as releasing screenshots of WhatsApp chats and the latter responding with a statement. Even Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel expressed a desire to mediate. “Don’t even go there!” Bhupathi signed off with a laugh.