Davis Cup: Ramkumar to face Seong-Chan Hong in opener

While in the first singles, India’s Ramkumar (World No.217) will take on Hong (World No.427), in the second singles Saketh Myneni will square off against Yong-kyu Lim in the matches to be played on the opening day here tomorrow.

India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan will take on South Korea's Hong in the first singles on Friday.   -  R. Ragu

The Korean resolve to fight the odds was further put to a test of water, as the skies opened to submerge the grass courts at the Chandigarh Club, on the eve of the Davis Cup tie.

After the Governor of Punjab and Haryana, Prof. Kaptan Singh Solanki drew the name of Ramkumar Ramanathan, in the brief draw ceremony held at the Raj Bhawan, to play the first rubber on Friday, against the Korean No.2 Seong Chan Hong, the only point the visitor emphasised repeatedly was the fact that it could not practise on the match court.

READ: >Preparations in full swing

Even before the elements could intervene and wash out practice on Wednesday, a minor realignment of the net posts had ensured that the centre court was out of bounds for play. Even when it rained heavily on Wednesday evening and on Thursday morning, there was not much scope to cover the courts for lack of suitable equipment.

The continued forecast of rain did add to the suspense and led to the official clarification that there could be two singles and doubles matches on the same day, if required, and that the tie could be extended to Monday, if the elements forced such an arrangement.

Spearheaded by Saketh Myneni, the Indian team looked a much superior side, the way everyone played with punch and poise on the grass courts, but even without their leading players who were reportedly injured, there was a general agreement that the Koreans could take the fight to the Indian camp.

While Ramkumar, making his debut, expressed his happiness about playing the first match, the seasoned Leander Paes said that it was a good draw for the host and that everything would depend on how well the teams handled the tricky conditions.

The No.1 singles player Saketh Myneni was confident that the team would get off to a good start on the opening day. If Saketh and Ramkumar do manage to give a good start, the stage could be set for Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes to seal the tie in the doubles.

However, Bopanna warned that everything depended on the level of play the Indian pair commanded on the day. ‘’We have to play our best. If we don’t play our level, it can be difficult for us against any team’’, pointed out Bopanna.

Saketh, quite a classy player who can really tease the opponents with his court craft, said that he was delighted to be playing on grass. " I am getting into my rhythm and ready for the challenge’’, said Saketh.

When probed, Paes said that the conditions were the same for both teams, but a soft court could make it difficult for players who may not be able to adapt quickly to the low bounce.

Paes promptly recalled the Davis Cup tie against Switzerland in 1993 in Kolkata, when the mighty team was tamed 3-2 by an Indian team that handled the conditions better.

The Koreans stressed that the difference of ATP rankings of the players in the two teams would not be a clear indicator, and that many aspects played a part in deciding the winner.

With play being ruled out on the grass courts even though it was possible to mow the grass and run the roller on the match court most of the players in both the teams opted to have a strong training session in the evening on the hard courts.

For Anand Amritraj, who has been thirsting to have a tie on grass in his leadership, it is a virtual ticket to World Group play-off, provided the players live up to the faith placed on them.

The draw

July 15: Ramkumar Ramanathan vs Seong Chan Hong (10 a.m.); Saketh Myneni vs Yong-Kyu Lim.

July 16: Rohan Bopanna & Leander Paes vs Hong Chung & Yunseong Chung (12 noon).

July 17: Saketh Myneni vs Seong Chan Hong (10 a.m.), Ramkumar Ramanathan vs Yong-Kyu Lim.