Indians not intimidated by Italians' rankings, says Bhupathi ahead of Davis Cup tie

India's non-playing Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi feels the higher ranking of the Italian players will not affect his side when the two nations face-off in Kolkata on February 1-2.

Mahesh Bhupathi has been India's non-playing Davis Cup captain since February 2017.   -  PTI

Indian Davis Cup team began its preparations to face Italy in the World Group qualifier in right earnest with non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi stating that the task of beating the visitor will be difficult but not impossible.

The Indians had their first practice session at the grass courts of the Calcutta Gymkhana Club on Wednesday, giving themselves eight days time to prepare for the tie against an opposition which is far superior on paper.

When it comes to ATP rankings, the Italians have four players within the top-60 with Marco Cecchinato (ranked 18), Andreas Seppi (35) and Matteo Berrettini (54) coming in the order. With the side decided to travel without the top-ranked Fabio Fognini, Cecchinato will spearhead its campaign.

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When asked if the Italians' superior rankings will have an impact on the minds of his players, Bhupathi said: “I think my boys are experienced enough to understand that the rankings when Davis Cup comes into play is not really a factor.”

“They have all played at the highest level now. Both Prajnesh (Gunneswaran) and Ramkumar (Ramanathan) have played Grand Slams and Tour events. So, it is not like that they would be intimidated. When I was playing Davis Cup, if I played a top ranked player it was different for me because I was always competing at the Challenger level. But with these guys I do not think ranking plays a factor. I think they actually truly believe that they are capable of beating them if they play well,” he added.

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The former World No. 1 in doubles has great expectations from Prajnesh and Ramkumar, the two pillars of his team.  “Prajnesh qualified for his first Grand Slam so he is on an all time high in terms of confidence. He has had an amazing breakthrough year last year. He is a late bloomer because of injuries but is definitely brimming with confidence.”

“Having said that, Ram is going to be super dangerous on these courts. We all saw what he did in Newport (ATP Tour final) last year as he reached the final, which he should have won. So we are positive,” Bhupathi added.

The Indian Davis Cup team shares a light moment with non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi at the Kolkata Gymkhana Tennis Club on Wednesday.   -  PTI

Speaking about the new format, Bhupathi said the shorter format may give the Indians an advantage. “When you are trying to upset a team like Italy obviously beating them in two sets versus three sets is easier," he said.

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He continued by saying that despite going into the tie as underdogs, India’s best chance of beating Italy is on grass. “Nothing can be taken for granted. We are big underdogs but I feel we have a better chance of upsetting them on grass that's the bottom line,” he said.

Bhupathi said Fognini's absence would not change the equation in his team's favour. “I mean they still got two guys in the top-50 so, I do not think the equation will change for us. We do not have even one guy in the top-100 so the equation remains the same,” he said.

The 44-year-old added that he was happy to be back in the city where he made his debut. “Personally, I am very excited. I made my debut in Kolkata. I played a lot of ties in Kolkata. That time grass was the choice. Obviously there is a lot of tradition of tennis in Kolkata,” he said.

The Indians will start practicing at the venue, Calcutta South Club, from Monday.

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