The new Davis Cup format will suit India, says Bhupathi

India hosts a strong Italy side in the Davis Cup qualifying round in February, in a shorter two-day tie with best-of-three set rubbers.

Mahesh Bhupathi will captain India against Italy in the Davis Cup Qualifying Round in February next year. (File Photo)   -  AFP

The new format that will be used in the 2019 Davis Cup Qualifying Round will work to the benefit of underdogs like India, captain Mahesh Bhupathi believes. Unseeded India hosts a strong Italy in the qualifying round in February, in a shorter two-day tie with best-of-three set matches. Ties were earlier held over three days, with five-set rubbers.

“The new format benefits us, because when you are playing teams which are better than us, it is easier to get the upset win by winning two out of three sets (rather than three out of five sets),” Bhupathi told Sportstar at the launch event of the Bangalore Midnight Marathon in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

With Fabio Fognini (world no. 14), Marco Cecchinato (world no. 20) and Andreas Seppi (world no. 37), Italy boasts of a formidable team. At world no. 108, Yuki Bhambri is India’s highest-ranked singles player.

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The venue for the fixture is yet to be decided. While Bhupathi believes in making full use of home conditions, he does not agree with the line of thought that a hot, humid venue will affect the Italians a great deal.

“Hot conditions won’t matter at that time of the year, because the Italians arrive here after playing the Australian Open in Melbourne, where it’ll be over 40 degrees Celsius,” he said.

Meeting the Davis Cup court regulations - space behind each baseline of not less than 27 feet (8.23 m) – is the top priority now, Bhupathi said. “We’ve put in some venue requests to the AITA, but there are some concerns with the Davis Cup rules and regulations when it comes to stadiums. We require a stadium with certain minimum amount of space behind the baseline. That’s the issue now. The AITA is trying to figure it out, and they will take a call in about 10 days. Our surface preference – be it grass or otherwise – has to fit the regulations,” the 44-year-old said.

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On Dhivij Sharan, who on Monday overtook Rohan Bopanna to become the highest-ranked Indian doubles player (world No. 38), Bhupathi said: “He’s had many great results. He’s definitely in the reckoning (for a Davis Cup spot).”

Bhupathi is happy that players like Sharan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran have had good runs in recent times, but their Davis Cup berths aren't guaranteed just yet. “It is a great sign when our guys do well, but winning now doesn’t really matter. They have to win closer to our tie,” he said.