Davis Cup: How India prepared for tough grass court challenge in Pakistan

Indian team’s meticulous plan to counter grass court challenge in Pakistan leads to a comfortable victory.

Published : Feb 04, 2024 21:04 IST ,  Islamabad - 3 MINS READ

Indian players and coaches during the doubles match between India and Pakistan at the Davis Cup World Group I play-off tie.
Indian players and coaches during the doubles match between India and Pakistan at the Davis Cup World Group I play-off tie. | Photo Credit: PTI

Indian players and coaches during the doubles match between India and Pakistan at the Davis Cup World Group I play-off tie. | Photo Credit: PTI

From simulating conditions in Islamabad to identifying a second singles player in N Sriram Balaji two months before the Davis Cup tie, the Indian team had a meticulous plan in place to counter the grass court challenge in Pakistan.

It worked well, and in the end, the Indian team emerged a comfortable winner in the World Group I Play-off tie, pummelling the hosts with a 4-0 scoreline.

The team management did not have the services of the country’s top two singles players -- Sumit Nagal and Sasikumar Mukund -- but it prepared well with the available resources.

The team researched the likely weather conditions in Islamabad and found that rain may lash the beautiful city, surrounded by hills, during the week of the tie.

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The moisture and chill in the air, along with the slightly wet court was anticipated and accordingly, captain Rohit Rajpal and his coaching team, which included Zeeshan Ali and Ashutosh Singh put in place a plan.

The groundsmen at Delhi Gymkhana Club, the venue for the pre-tie one-week camp, were directed to leave water on the courts during the night so that the court would become slow and with low bounce.

The players trained well in those conditions for a week before landing in Islamabad. The same conditions welcomed them here, as the city experienced rain twice in the week.

The players were not caught off guard, and adapting to the conditions became easy. They were well-prepared to negotiate the conditions even before landing in the capital city of Pakistan.

“We had checked the weather forecast. We knew that there will be fast and low-bounce courts on offer. The training camp in Delhi was crucial because Pakistan players play so well on grass courts at home.

“The players were ready and got sharper after landing in Islamabad. Ramkumar even told me after the tie that if they did not have the camp in Delhi, adapting to conditions and countering the fiery Aisam ul haq would be stiffer,” Rajpal, who could not travel with the team due to personal reasons, told PTI.

“The team had adopted the same strategy for the Denmark tie as well. Largely the team wanted to pick hard courts, but it was then decided that we play them on grass because they are already good on hard courts, and grass is the surface where they struggle.” Former national champion Ashutosh further explained how the camp helped the team.

“The ground staff at the DGC was requested to not use the heavy roller on practice courts for three out of six practice days during the camp. This was done to enable the ground to become softer, and hence resulting in lower bounce to simulate match conditions in Islamabad,” said Ashutosh.

“Kudos to captain Rohit and the team management for organising the camp.” In terms of selection, the team was keen to play Yuki Bhambri as the second singles player. However, there were concerns if playing singles would put pressure on his knees and ankles.

“Then we told Bala to be ready. He was asked to start practising for singles two months before the tie. He came fully prepared. It kept him ready mentally, and it makes a huge difference since he did not have to make quick adjustments,” said Rajpal.

India will next compete in September.

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