India's positive results on grass an advantage, says Bhupathi

Mahesh Bhupathi feels the Indian team will have the advantage of playing on grasscourts when it hosts Italy in the Davis Cup in February next year.

Mahesh Bhupathi feels the Indians have a chance to defeat Italy on grass when the two sides clash in the Davis Cup in February 2019.   -  R. Ragu

Davis Cup non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Saturday said the recent string of positive results for Indians on grass will give the host an advantage when it takes on Italy in February.

“Ramkumar (Ramanathan) made the finals for Newport this year on grass, Prajnesh (Gunneswaran) qualified and beat Dennis Shapovalov on grass. Seeing that grass is an advantage for us,” Bhupathi said on the sidelines of a Kia Motors event.

The Italians, led by world No 13 Fabio Fognini are superior to India on hard and clay courts, but might struggle on grass.

“Italy has 6 players in the top-100, where do we have a chance against them? The only logical answer is grass. Playing at home we always have a chance. In Kolkata, on grass, we will throw something at them and see how it goes,” he said.

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Asked about the new Davis Cup format consisting of a six-player squad playing three-set matches over two days, Bhupathi said it would benefit India.

“The new format will be beneficial for India because when you want to beat someone like Fabio Fognini, it’s easier to do it in two sets than three sets. When playing a better player beating him 2 out of 3 is much easier than beating him 3 out of 5,” he stated.

India hasn't qualified for the World group stage despite winning consistently in the Oceania Group and Bhupathi believes it is because of the lack of top-100 players in the team.

“We have nobody who is capable of playing world group level. World group level is top-100, how do you compete with top-100 players when you are not in that bracket,” he said.

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Bhupathi said that to popularise a sport, money should be pumped in for the development besides giving it a priority status.

“We don’t have a culture of tennis in India. We want to see a singles Grand Slam champion from India one day, but that’s not possible because there is no culture of the sport in the country. China spent hundreds and millions of dollars for 20 years before Li Na won a Grand Slam.

“Sania Mirza created a revolution 10 years ago in India, she broke all boundaries, she played the third round of the Australian Open, Wimbledon. Everyone in India was watching but what happened after that? We don’t have five Sanias. Tennis is not a priority in our country,” he remarked.

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However, Bhupathi believes all is not lost and Indian tennis is headed in the right direction.

“For the first time we have three boys in the top-150, Prajnesh,Ram and Yuki (Bhambri). This has never happened before. We are going in the right direction but the culture is missing. We are always No. 1 or 2 in cricket because we have a culture of cricket...without the culture you can’t expect miracles,” he concluded.