Leander Paes named in Davis Cup squad for Uzbekistan tie

The AITA selection committee selected a six-member squad of Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna, Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan, N. Sriram Balaji and Prajnesh Gunneswaran for the upcoming tie.

The selectors have decided to stick with Davis Cup veterans Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna for the tie against Uzbekistan.   -  AP

The leading doubles players of the country Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes may be compelled to fight on the same side of the court, as the selectors chose a six-member squad for the Asia-Oceania Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan to be played in Bengaluru from April 7 to 9.

The selection committee with former Davis Cup Captain SP Misra as the chairman, took the four best singles players available and the two best doubles players.

"We have chosen the best possible team, and it is now up to the captain to decide on the four. We will have another discussion ten days before the tie and announce the four member squad", said the secretary general of the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Hironmoy Chatterjee, who addressed the media along with SP Misra and coach Zeeshan Ali here on Monday.

"With the current roster of available players for the Davis Cup Tie, I am confident that this is the strongest squad for the Tie. My decision on the final competing team for the weekend will be based on their performances over the next three weeks and their fitness levels during the week of the tie’’, said Mahesh Bhupathi in a press release, in which he expressed confidence that both the players and the AITA would support him in the best possible way.

Saketh Myneni and Sumit Nagal who had figured in the World Group play-off tie against Spain last September are srill recovering from their injuries and thus were not considered. Saketh had pulled out a day before the tie against New Zealand with a foot injury, which forced Vishnu Vardhan to fly from Hyderabad on the morning of the draw, to partner Leander. The young Sumit is recovering from a shoulder injury.

Everyone agreed that doubles could be the key against Denis Istomin and company. It was felt important to put the best possible pair together in an attempt to beat Uzbekistan and get to the World Group play-off for the fourth year in a row.

It was felt that Mahesh would communicate with the players and get them on the same page and pull their weight together for the team’s cause. There has been a lot of bitterness between Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes in recent times, especially from the Rio Olympics when they played together the last time, and crashed out in the first
round.

Bopanna and Leander had a good outing against the Koreans on grass in Chandigarh last year, and also the one  against Serbia in 2014 when they bounced back from being two sets down and a break down in the third to clinch the doubles rubber, which kept the tie live till the fifth rubber that went into the fourth day owing to rain.

They had their worst outing in the tie against the Czech Republic in Delhi, when Leander was cut up by the comments prior to the tie which had hinted about the doubles rubber being taken for granted, as Radek Stepanek had an inexperienced partner.

"Mahesh is going to correct the negativity’’, stressed Hironmoy Chatterjee.

Coach Zeeshan Ali said that he was in regular touch with Mahesh and the new captain was trying a few things like getting the fitness of the players tested in Mumbai, to ensure sound preparation for the tie.


The team:  Ramkumar Ramanathan, Yuki Bhambri, Prajnesh Gunneswaran,  Sriram Balaji, Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes.

Captain: Mahesh Bhupathi.

Coach: Zeeshal Ali.

Junior players: Dhruv Sunish and Nitin Kumar Sinha.

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