The Indian Davis Cup team will take on South Korea in the pair’s Asia/Oceania group tie in Chandigarh this week. Featuring an all-star lineup, the team boasts India No. 1 Saketh Myneni, 17-time Grand Slam winner Leander Paes and doubles ace Rohan Bopanna among its ranks.
India and Korea’s Davis Cup teams last played each other in 2014, in an away tie for the Indians, who would go on to win 3-1. Although the most recent victory lies with the Indians, of the 10 occasions the two teams have played each other in the past, it is the Koreans who have come out on top 6 times.
This is the second round match of the group with the Indian side having received a first-round bye, as both teams combat each other for a spot in the World Group playoffs with a win in the Asia/Oceania group stage.
A powerful Korean side are fresh off a victory over New Zealand and will look to build on that. Indian champion Somdev Devvarman, who had taken India to the win in their deciding rubber in the side’s last match against Korea, will not be part of this tie, still nursing an injury. Former Indian No. 1 Yuki Bhambri will also sit out the Korea tie, not having recovered from his own injuries yet.
In their absence, Chennai-based 21-year-old Ramkumar Ramanathan, an active presence on the ITF circuit, will make his Davis Cup debut for the team in Chandigarh.
The Indian side have chosen to play the tie on grass; although neither side is completely at home on the surface, India’s players have significantly more experience there than their Korean counterparts, giving them a marked advantage.
Paes and Bopanna, who have had a publicly played-out spat in recent months ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, are both on the squad scheduled to begin the tie against Korea tomorrow.
Bopanna, as a result of his top 10 doubles ranking, had received a direct entry to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which Paes, despite his Grand Slam wins, did not. Although the final decision rested with the All-India Tennis Association or AITA, the decision was largely left to Bopanna’s discretion. The Bangalorean ace wrote in a letter to AITA that he preferred to partner India’s singles No. 1 Saketh Myneni instead, leading to a drawn-out and publicly displayed spat, with AITA ultimately deciding to intervene to include Paes in the Olympic squad.
It seems likely that the pair will not partner one another in the doubles here, but given that they are the two strongest doubles players in the team, it will be in the side’s best interests if the two are able to iron out their differences – not only for the tie, but for the Olympic Games ahead.
Seong Chan Hong