Sriram Balaji hoping to be third-time lucky

In September 2012, when he earned his first Davis Cup call-up for the tie against New Zealand, Sriram Balaji had described the moment as a ‘major break in his career’.

The 27-year-old is part of the outfit announced by Captain Mahesh Bhupathi.   -  Sudhakara Jain

In September 2012, when he earned his first Davis Cup call-up for the tie against New Zealand, Sriram Balaji had described the moment as a ‘major break in his career’. A few months later, he returned to the squad for the match against Indonesia. But on both occasions, he was left warming the bench.

ITF Futures: Sriram Balaji bags singles title

Five years later, he is in the squad of six again, with arguably a much better chance of making the final four. When India squares off against Uzbekistan in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I tie here, Balaji will hope to be third-time lucky.

“It is a privilege to represent the country once again,” he said. “Last time, I was part of the six-member squad and not the playing four, but hopefully this time, things will be different. I am really happy to be back.”

In fine form

India’s Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali was in attendance as the 27-year-old won the Bengaluru Futures on Saturday.

“I noticed him [Zeeshan Ali] at the end of the third set,” said Balaji with a smile. “I was a little nervous. I got a break and I was two games away from winning the match. I was actually happy that he was watching me. Thankfully I pulled it off.”

Apart from his singles success this Futures series where he has two titles and two runner-up trophies, Balaji has also won three doubles titles and finished second best once.

“That’s the whole reason we have him in the squad,” said Zeeshan, who is also a selector. “There are six players we need to choose from and the way he has been playing, he will be one of the top contenders to play singles or the doubles.”

Balaji could come in handy if captain Mahesh Bhupathi opts to go in with just one doubles specialist in the final four.

Whether his recent performance is enough to bag him his maiden Davis Cup cap, only time will tell.