Zeeshan Ali: Place in Davis Cup World Group attainable

The way India reasserted its regional supremacy sweeping all the gold and silver in the South Asian Games, Ali said, is an indication of the fact that tennis in India is headed in the right direction.

Indian tennis coach Zeeshan Ali during the 12th South Asian Games in Guwahati   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

The emergence of young talents in men’s and women’s tennis is encouraging and it is only a matter of time before India regains its place in the World Group in the Davis Cup, feels Indian coach Zeeshan Ali. The way India reasserted its regional supremacy sweeping all the gold and silver in the South Asian Games, Ali said, is an indication of the fact that tennis in India is headed in the right direction.

The recent performance of the women’s team in the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group I in Thailand, where it finished fifth among the top eight teams of the continent is another promising factor, said Ali. He said the emergence of names like Ankita Raina and Prerna Bhambri in the women’s tennis and Ramkumar Ramanathan in men’s augurs well for the future of the sport.

In the Davis Cup, India will have the home advantage this time in the Asia/Oceania second round tie in July, where it will play the winner of the first round between South Korea and New Zealand. “We have been doing well by reaching the world group play offs in the last two years, considering the players we have and their world ranking. The last two years we have been unlucky not to have caused the upset despite reaching the deciding rubbers against strong sides like Serbia and Czech Republic,” Ali, a former Davis Cupper himself, said.

The Indian coach said the loss of the Indian doubles team, where the country has been very strong in the last two decades, is a big cause for concern which needs to be addressed soon. “Unfortunately our doubles team of Leander (Paes) and Rohan Bopanna could not produce the results expected of them in the last two play-off matches. Doubles is something where we had done very well in the last two decades. We need to sit down and have a good look at the doubles combination for the match coming up in July,” the Indian coach said.

“Indian tennis is moving in the right direction and regaining the position in the world group stage is something that could be achieved. We are in a good position where young Yuki (Bhambri) is doing consistently well and there is Ramkumar Ramanathan who is coming up fast. I think it will take another year or two when we have players who will have better world rankings and make it possible for us to reach the world group,” Ali said, hoping that Yuki, who is recovering from a tennis elbow injury, regains his top form.

Ali said that Ankita Raina’s recent good showing in the Fed Cup will give her the confidence to get some more good results in the WTA circuit. “Ankita beating the world No. 56 Nao Hibino and then her win against (Yaroslava) Shvedova of Kazakhstan who is ranked 82 in the world is a great achievement. I feel the good performance in Fed Cup will have a positive rub-off on their confidence and that will show in her performance in the coming months,” Ali said adding that Prerna Bhambri is also improving quite well. “We were up against strong teams like Kazakhstan and Japan who have players who are within top-60 in the world. There were lots of teams who have much higher ranked players in the world. We finished the competition at fifth position with players who are not within the top-200 in the world. Given that, our performance was excellent,” Ali said, hoping for doing more encores.