Davis Cup: Sharan returns, Balaji dropped from Indian team for Italy tie

As Yuki Bhambri continues to miss action due to his knee injury, the singles duty will be handled by Prajnesh Gunneswaran (110) and Ramkumar Ramanathan (132). Leander Paes continues to remain on the sidelines.

Divij Sharan makes a return to the Indian Davis Cup team after seven years.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Asian Games gold medallist Divij Sharan is set to play his Davis Cup tie and first since 2012 after being included in the Indian team for the World Group Qualifier rubber against Italy, scheduled for February 1-2 in Kolkata.

An AITA source told PTI that the new selection committee, led by Rohit Rajpal, has largely gone by the rankings. “It picked the best four available singles players and the top-two doubles player,” said the source.

READ: Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan upbeat about alliance

Sharan had missed out on playing the Serbia tie due to a shoulder injury. The left-hander from Delhi, ranked 39, will play the doubles alongside Rohan Bopanna, ranked 37th with whom he has paired for 2019 on the Pro Tour.

Sharan had made his Davis Cup debut against New Zealand, playing the doubles rubber with Vishnu Vardhan, in India’s 5-0 whitewash of the visiting team.

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As Yuki Bhambri continues to miss action due to his knee injury, the singles duty will be handled by Prajnesh Gunneswaran (110) and Ramkumar Ramanathan (132).

The Indian squad:
  • Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Divij Sharan, Rohan Bopanna, Saketh Myneni and Sasi Kumar Mukund.

Saketh Myneni (259), who ended a runner-up at the Bengaluru Challenger and has qualified for the Tata Open Maharashtra, has retained his place.

N. Sriram Balaji, who played the inconsequential fourth rubber against Serbia’s Pedja Kristin, has been dropped from the squad along with Arjun Kadhe who was a reserve member.

The team has a new member in young Sasi Kumar Mukund, who was impressive in the 2018 season. He has zoomed to 295 after beginning the 2018 season at a low 426.

Veteran Leander Paes continues to remain on the sidelines. He is country’s third highest-ranked player at 63 in the world.

India will host Italy on grass courts of South Club.

A total of 24 teams will play in the knockout qualifiers on February 1 and 2 to decide which 12 teams will play the year-end Finals.

Twelve winners in February will join these six teams for the 18-team Finals in Madrid in November 2019.

According to the new format, only four semifinalists from 2018 season along with two wild cards — Argentina and Britain — have a direct entry.

India lost its World Group Play-off to Serbia while Italy lost its quarterfinal to France. Since India is ranked 20, it again got a shot at World Group.