India vs Pakistan Davis Cup: Strong India ready to steamroll depleted Pakistan

The Indian team was already expected to win comfortably but the fact that top Pakistani players have pulled out will likely make it a no-contest.

Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan is set to make his debut in the Davis Cup.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

A formidable Indian team is expected to overcome the challenge of a depleted Pakistan team in a Davis Cup tie starting here on Friday.

The fixture was shifted to a neutral venue following a drama-filled build-up. The uncertainty over the venue remained till the last moment and it only added to the confusion regarding players’ selection in both the sides.

Eventually, the International Tennis Federation moved the tie to Nur-Sultan after its independent tribunal rejected Pakistan Tennis Federation’s review appeal. While it resolved the security concerns, the shifting of the tie did no good to the competition.

India, with players of the calibre of Sumit Nagal, Ramkumar Ramanathan and veteran Leander Paes, was already expected to win comfortably but the fact that Pakistan’s top players in Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan have pulled out will likely make it a no-contest.

While the Indian players have Grand Slam experience behind them, the Pakistanis are still struggling to make a mark even at the ITF Futures level. The doubles rubber would have been competitive if Pakistan’s top players participated but they chose not to, protesting against shifting of the tie.

Learning experience

The contest will be a learning experience for Pakistan’s junior players, who will lead their country’s challenge in the tie, the winner of which will travel to Croatia in March, 2020, for the World Group Qualifiers. The tie will offer the 46-year-old Paes a chance to further better his Davis Cup record for most doubles wins. He currently stands on top with 43 wins which he had achieved last year while playing against China.

Read | Timeline of events in the lead-up to the IND vs PAK match

A 44th win beckons Paes, the owner of 18 Grand Slam trophies. He will be partnering Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who is set to make his Davis Cup debut. The left-handed Chennai lad will become India’s 75th player to play a Davis Cup tie.

The in-form Nagal has an opportunity to earn his first Davis Cup win as he has lost both his singles matches so far — against Spain (2016) and China (2018). Ramkumar, India’s No. 2 singles player, can also better his win-loss record. So far, he has 7-7 record in eight ties.

Ramkumar will open the tie on Friday against Muhammad Shoaib, who has is yet to win a single match in the main draw of an ITF Futures tournament. The 17-year-old hasn’t played a single game this year.

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi has pulled out of the tie as a protest against the shifting of venue. Photo: M. Vedhan

 

In the second singles tie, Nagal will take on Huzaifa Abdul Rehman, who did well in the junior ITF circuit.

‘Looking for a whitewash’

India’s non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal said his team was looking for a whitewash. “Pakistan has young players who seem to be hitting well and free. They are playing against a tough Indian team with nothing to lose. I was told that in their press conference they said they are fighters and will fight till the end. We are looking to whitewash them,” Rajpal told PTI.

The tie is being played on indoor hard courts due to sub-zero temperatures. “Thankfully, the AITA provided us some very heavy jackets considering the extreme weather conditions. Our physios are giving the players extending sessions. There are improvised drills to not only warm up the players, but also cool them down.”

Read | Bhupathi: Not surprised by how the AITA dealt with me but it hurts

On the second day of the tie on Saturday, Paes and Nedunchezhiyan will take on the pair of Shoaib and Huzaifa before the reverse singles are played. The fourth rubber will be played even if India takes an unassailable 3-0 lead. The teams have a choice of not playing the inconsequential fifth rubber.

Matches will start at 1:30pm (IST) on Saturday and at 11:30 am on Saturday.