MUMBAI: AS is the tradition with Indian tennis, off-court controversies are once again hijacking the run-up to an important Davis Cup clash against Pakistan, scheduled for November 29. The tie has been fraught with hurdles ever since the draw was made in February. The diplomatic wrangling saw India hesitate to travel to Pakistan, the International Tennis Federation postpone the tie from September to November and eventually shift it to a neutral venue. Just as that news was trickling in, the clash between the many stakeholders in Indian tennis has taken the centre stage.
Indian Davis Cupper Saketh Myneni rued the state of things and the public perception of tennis. “The Davis Cup thing is going the wrong way,” said the 32-year-old on the sidelines of the Pune Challenger on Sunday. “We are worried about other things, in a negative way.”
Myneni, who last represented the country in the World Group Playoffs in Serbia in 2018, has been one of the assets for the Indian team in recent times — he’s seen as a capable singles as well as doubles player. He is also the only one of the original squad of five who had showed readiness to travel to Islamabad for the tie.
“There’s always talk about the safety because of the political tensions (between India and Pakistan),” Myneni said. “Everyone was concerned about how things would be (in Pakistan). But I was clear that whatever the team decided, I would be with them. We want to go and win. That’s a priority for me also. The last thing I wanted was for India to forfeit the tie. There was talk about the team being banned if they refused to travel. I didn’t want that scenario for India. It’s about the sport, not about what’s happening behind the scenes. That’s what tennis has become now.”
As far as the Davis Cup narrative goes, the tournament has always held more prestige for teams like India, who don’t have regular representation at the Grand Slams. “When I was growing up, the Davis Cup was big. It’s a very important tournament for me. Representing your country is a huge honour. For people who are coming up now, maybe it’s not that important. I don’t think they have seen the good side yet.”
On a personal front, the 6’4 Myneni is still struggling to recapture the form of 2016, which saw him qualify for the main draw of the US Open. He’s had another injury-affected year, where his best performance was a semifinal finish at the ATP Challenger Event in Jerusalem.