Leander Paes wins Challenger in Mexico, Yuki out of Davis Cup

Third seeds, Leander Paes and Adil Shamasdin of Canada outplayed Luca Margaroli of Switzerland and Calo Zamperi of Brazil 6-1, 6-4 in the final. The title was worth 90 ATP points and $4650.

Paes announced his readiness for the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan after winning the doubles title in the Challenger tennis tournament in Mexico on Saturday.   -  R. Ragu

 

Leander Paes announced his readiness for the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan, by winning the doubles title in the $75,000 Challenger tennis tournament in Mexico on Saturday.

Third seeds, Paes and Adil Shamasdin of Canada outplayed Luca Margaroli of Switzerland and Calo Zamperi of Brazil 6-1, 6-4 in the final. The title was worth 90 ATP points and $4650. The runners-up collected 55 ATP points and USD 2700.

It was the first Challenger title of the season for the 43-year-old Paes, who had won two of them last year. Even though both Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes had been kept as reserves for the tie against Uzbekistan starting in Benglauru on April 7, captain Mahesh Bhupathi conceded that one of them would play.

It had nothing to do with Paes winning the Challenger or Bopanna having the best doubles rank among the Indians, but owing to Yuki Bhambri pulling out with a “knee inflammation”.

It was not a welcome situation, as the 24-year-old Yuki was easily the best player on view, having been exceptionally consistent in the Challenger circuit in China, when he made two semifinals apart from a quarterfinal.

“It is a strain and will keep me out for two to three weeks. Been playing with it in China. Didn’t want to risk anymore since it is too early in the season”, reasoned Yuki, when contacted.

Obviously, Yuki did not want to undergo the medical fitness test scheduled to be taken in Mumbai prior to the players assembling for the tie in Bengaluru, and conceded that he would not have been able to pass it.

Last season, before he missed more than six months owing to a painful “tennis elbow”, Yuki had won the Delhi Open Challenger doubles title with Mahesh Bhupathi.

So, the responsibility on Ramkumar Ramanathan, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sriram Balaji will increase, even though it may simplify matters related to team composition to a great extent.

 

Bhupathi rules out teaming up Paes and Bopanna

Bhupathi, soon after having taken over as Captain, had identified fitness as his main concern with the team and had asked all his players to undergo mandatory tests. Little would Bhupathi have expected his most important player – who has had a career blighted by injuries – to succumb first.

“Yuki was the backbone of our team and has been playing really well this year,” said Bhupathi. “We were counting on him being here. Unfortunately now we have to re-strategise the composition a bit.”

In this Bhupathi might not have much room left. Vishnu Vardhan, who was called in as a last-minute replacement against New Zealand in February, and was invited to train with the team here is out injured too.

With Balaji and Prajnesh having never played a best-of-five Davis Cup live rubber before, Bhupathi clarified that he wouldn’t risk having only two singles players in the final four.

“No i can’t risk that,” Bhupathi said, when asked if Paes and Bopanna could team up.

“Prajnesh and Balaji have never played a five-set Davis Cup live match before. If one of them gets sore or injured on day one, none of my doubles guys can win me a singles match on day three. I am pretty sure i don’t want to risk that.”

On Sunday evening the Indian side comprising Ramkumar, Balaji, Prajnesh and Bopanna had its first practise session under Bhupathi.

“This is a different feeling from being up there and preparing to play,” the 43-year-old remarked. “I feel like a granddad here. Telling each one what to do, what to work on, what the practice sessions are about, recovery sessions. But i am sure I’ll get used to it.”

The earlier the better, one would say, for his first task now seems severely cut out.

The results:

$75,000 Challenger men, Leon, Mexico Doubles (final): Adil Shamasdin (Can) & Leander Paes bt Luca Margaroli (Sui) & Caio Zamperi (Bra) 6-1, 6-4.

$25,000 ITF women, Santa Margherita Di Pula, Italy Doubles (final): Lina Gjorcheska (Mkd) & Bernarda Pera (US) bt Eva Wacanno (Ned) & Prarthana Thombare 6-2, 6-3.