India’s non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Wednesday said he will assess Leander Paes at training before deciding on the team composition for their Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan, starting in less than two days.
“The team has not yet been finalised. I have seen Leander for the first time today. Let us see how it goes,” he told reporters ahead of India’s training session here.
Bhupathi added that Paes looked rejuvenated. “He looks fresh. He looks good. He is going to play some sets and then let us see,” he said.
Bhupathi said the conditions in Mexico, where Paes won the Challengers Trophy recently, are similar to the ones here. “Yeah, (it) definitely helps, for Leander played in similar conditions in Mexico,” he said.
Bhupathi said Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin and Yuki Bhambari’s absence has evened out the tie.
“For the last two days we were hearing Istomin will not be coming. For us, losing Yuki was a big blow, but after Istomin’s exit, the tie looks evenly poised,” he said.
Asked whether the tie has lost its charm after losing Istomin and Yuki, Bhupathi said it will be known once the players battle it out on April 7.
“India is playing. I don’t know if Yuki was the charm or India playing in Bangalore is the charm, that we will see when the players come out on Friday,” he said.
Bhupathi said the absence of Yuki is a great opportunity for youngsters to make an impression.
“You don’t get opportunities often. They put up a good show, they are in direct contention with Yuki and Saket Myneni once they are back on the courts, fit,” he said.
“From India’s tennis perspective, it is a good place to be in. However, the priority is to win the match,” he said.
Bhupathi said he is in a unique situation captaining the Davis Cup side because he has played with and against not only Indian players, but also the rivals.
“I am in a unique situation here. All these guys are my colleagues. I have played with and against all of them including Denis (Istomin). We both play doubles together. So, they have also been friends. For me to able to captain them...
For me, it is exciting and they are also enjoying as well,” he said.
Asked about the difference between playing and captaining a Davis Cup side, Bhupathi said as a player he worries about himself, whereas a captain thinks about all the players.
“When we are playing Davis Cup you have to worry about everything for yourself so that you get ready to play. When you are captaining the side, you make sure everybody is ready — from diet to food, from recovery to ice—baths, from training to fitness, etc.,” he said.
Asked about the pressure on first-time Davis Cuppers, Bhupathi said playing for the country brings in a lot of pressure.
“Every kid dreams of playing for the country. For them it is something that 20 years of sweat and blood is coming to fruition, and obviously they are going to feel nervous and if they are not nervous it is not a normal thing at all,” he said.
Bhupathi said the number of tournaments, including Futures, have helped youngsters like Sriram Balaji and Prajnesh Gunneswaran to score lots of points.
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