The final chapter of the glittering Davis Cup career of Rohan Bopanna begins in a rather unfamiliar territory when India takes on Morocco in a World Group II tie on the hard courts at the Vijayant Khand Mini Stadium in Gomti Nagar, Lucknow on September 16-17.
The 43-year-old Bopanna, who became the oldest Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era with his run to the men’s doubles summit clash at the US Open last week, is set to retire from the team competition after what will be his 50th match.
Since the introduction of the new Davis Cup format in 2019 after the International Tennis Federation struck a deal with Gerard Pique’s investment group Kosmos, India will be involved in a Group II match for the first time. It had lost the Group I play-off 2-3 to Holger Rune-led Denmark in Hillerød earlier this year.
The first Davis Cup tie in Lucknow in 23 years begins with the two singles matches on Saturday. Mukund Sasikumar is set to make his Davis Cup debut after being drawn to face World No. 557 Yassine Dlimi.
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In the other singles match of the opening day, India No. 1 Sumit Nagal takes on World No. 779 Adam Moundir. World No. 156 Nagal, who will be the country’s sole representative in men’s singles at the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, was expected to be up against Elliot Benchetrit but Moroccan captain Mehdi Tahiri decided to field his top-ranked singles player only in doubles due to his ongoing fitness issues.
“Elliot Benchetrit is a little bit injured. He had not played too many matches. The other two players are good and in shape,” said Tahiri during the official draw ceremony conducted by the Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath at his official residence on Friday.
On Sunday, Bopanna will team up with Yuki Bhambri to take on Benchetrit and Younes Lalami Laaroussi in the doubles match followed by reverse singles - Nagal vs Dlimi and Sasikumar vs Moundir.
While the Rohit Rajpal-led Indian side is expected to dominate the tie, the conditions could play a key role in making the match interesting. While the last couple of days in the State capital have been quite humid with temperatures in the early 30s, there is rain forecast for Saturday.
“It will be difficult because of the humid conditions but we came here two weeks ago. We should be fine. Rankings wise India is better. They have a very good doubles team but most of their players practise outside India and heat will be a factor for them too,” said Tahiri.
The winner of the tie will take on one of the losing teams from the ongoing World Group I ties in a Group I play-off next year.
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