Like he had done for the London Olympics, Vishnu Vardhan made a dramatic entry into the Asia Oceania Davis Cup tie against New Zealand on Thursday, as Saketh Myneni withdrew with a foot injury that he had suffered during training.
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With Leander Paes gunning for a doubles world record in Davis Cup, life came another full circle for Vishnu Vradhan who had started playing after seeing Paes win the Olympic bronze at Atlanta in 1996.
The officials tried hard for the services of the country’s No.1 doubles player Rohan Bopanna, who had argued his case strongly when he was overlooked originally, but he reportedly refused to budge from Bengaluru.
The 29-year-old Vishnu Vardhan , who was contacted by Paes on Thursday, was training in Hyderabad, having missed the visa deadline for competing in tournaments in Kazakhstan.
“That is the best mistake I have ever done. We keep playing the Futures and Challengers all the time, but Davis Cup is rare, it is a honour,” said Vishnu Vardhan as he grabbed the chance and was here in time for the draw ceremony.
In an impressive draw ceremony held under a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at the Balewadi Sports Complex, where the teams arrived in in chariots, the Governor of Maharashtra, Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, hailed Paes as the “Roger Federer of Indian tennis,” before drawing the name of Yuki Bhambri. It meant that Bhambri would play the first rubber on Friday against the 414th ranked Finn Tearney.
Ramkumar Ramanathan, elevated to the status of No. 1, will play the second singles against the 417th-ranked but experienced Jose Statham.
Amritraj happy with draw
“It is the draw I would have liked. Yuki playing first is good. We have a new doubles entry. I know that three people talked to Rohan, and I was not one of them,” said captain Anand Amritraj.
“We will put our best foot forward. I am sorry for Saketh. I had enjoyed playing with him against Spain,” said Paes, who recalled that he had started his Davis Cup career on the same day in 1990 with Zeeshan Ali as a doubles player.
Paes expressed pride at Yuki’s willingness to take the load of playing two singles and a doubles, if required.
Paes praises Vishnu Vardhan
Praising Vishnu Vardhan for his commitment, Paes recalled how the young man had carried him through the first round at London against the Netherlands’ Robin Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer. The scratch Indian combination played a three setter against the eventual silver medallists, Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
“I am confident. I hope Yuki wins and we get the lead on the first day,” said Ramkumar.
The New Zealand camp stated that it was not concerned about the change in the Indian team and was best prepared to try and win the tie and reach the next round to play the winner of the match between Uzbekistan and Korea.
Friday: Yuki Bhambri vs. Finn Tearney (3 p.m.); Ramkumar Ramanathan vs. Jose Statham
Saturday: Leander Paes & Vishnu Vardhan vs Artem Sitak & Michael Venus (6 p.m.)
Sunday: Ramkumar vs. Tearney (3 p.m.), Bhambri vs. Jose Statham
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