Preparations in full swing for the Davis Cup

For all the storm that Indian tennis keeps generating in the media,there was admirable peace as Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna and the rest of the team practised on the beautiful grass courts at the Chandigarh Club here on Wednesday.

Rohan Bopanna combiend nicely with Leander Paes in practice. India faces Korea for a spot in the World Group play-off.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

For all the storm that Indian tennis keeps generating in the media,there was admirable peace as Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna and the rest of the team practised on the beautiful grass courts at the Chandigarh Club here on Wednesday.

The Koreans, without their top three singles players, went about their task, far away from anyone’s attention, while the Indian team was bristling with harmony!

Of course, it was a delight to watch the way Saketh Myneni, Rohan Bopanna and Ramkumar Ramanathan delivered their weapons, the big serves. The 43-year-old Paes was commanding his magical touch on his favourite surface on which he could tease and torment the best of players on his day, over decades.

> Read: Life has come a full circle for Leander Paes

Naturally, all the attention was on Paes and Bopanna who combined nicely when pitted against the vibrant game of Vishnu Vardhan and Saketh. There was no doubt that the Koreans would have their hands full.

Captain Anand Amritraj, however, was categorical that the Koreans knew how to fight and that the Indian team was prepared for any challenge.

‘’I expected Leander and Rohan to win against the Czech. But, I sort of jinxed it by saying so. I am not going to do that now’’, said Anand.

The attention will be on Saketh and Ramkumar who have done very well in the professional circuit and would be the main soldiers leading the team in the battle, playing singles on the opening day.

Having recovered from a shoulder strain and a foot injury, Saketh said that he was on top of his game, thanks to hard training in recent weeks. He was a bit unlucky not to have had a better fare in both the French Open and Wimbledon qualifying events, but said that things were falling in place once again.

In fact, Saketh had trained last week in Delhi with Sanam Singh and some juniors as he got familiar with the weather conditions at this time of the year in the North. ‘’It is an old school grass’’, pointed out Saketh, even as he warned not to take the Koreans lightly.

‘’Yong-Kyu Lim who beat us in the doubles gold medal match with Hyeon Chung in the Asian Games, is here. They are a tough team’’, said Saketh.

Ramkumar was also equally enthusiastic about making his Davis Cup debut, and said that he was looking forward to the tie.

‘’Rohan is helping me a lot. It is a fast court and it will suit our game. I am happy to be playing my first Davis Cup tie in India’’, said Ramkumar.

‘’The Koreans are mentally strong. But, it helps to be aggressive on these courts’’, said Ramkumar.

Captain Anand, delighted to be leading the team on grass, the first time in the country after April 2008 when Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj had beaten the Japanese team that had a young Kei Nishikori, said that grass could tilt the tie in India’s favour, against the Koreans who had such good depth of talent.

A strong spell of rain in the evening, after the teams had one long session in the morning past noon, showed how nature could really complicate matters and tease everyone. A lot of effort had gone into preparing the courts, which had hosted the National championship when Mahesh Bhupathi emerged the champion in 1994. Worse, there was more forecast of rain for the next few days.

The Indian team, fearing the real storm, would be praying for adequate time of play to wrap up the tie and march towards the World Group play-off.

The draw will be made on Thursday to decide who plays the first singles.

It may be a difficult tie to lose, but there will be no dearth of entertainment.