Davis Cup 2017: Rohan Bopanna, Leander Paes left out of squad to face Uzbekistan
India's best doubles players have been named as reserves.
What’s the story?
In a surprising call made by India’s Davis Cup captain, Mahesh Bhupathi, the country’s top-ranked male doubles player, Rohan Bopanna, and 18-time doubles Grand Slam winner, Leander Paes, have been omitted from the Davis Cup squad to face Uzbekistan.
Bhupathi has decided to use this as an opportunity to blood youngsters, naming the likes of Ramkumar Ramanathan, Yuki Bhambri, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and N. Sriram Balaji in the squad. "I have been tracking them. I need to reward results," he said when questioned about why he had included four singles players in the squad.
Bopanna and Paes, meanwhile, have been named as the reserves.
In case you didn’t know...
Bopanna and Paes have both struggled for form this season. Both suffered ignominious first round exits at the Irving Challenger as well as the Indian Wells Masters. Bhambri, meanwhile, has been in decent nick, reaching the semi-finals of two Challenger events – Zhuhai and Shenzen.
The heart of the matter
The final selection was done by the chairman of the All India Tennis Association, however, Bhupathi’s advice was taken into consideration. Bhupathi, who formed a legendary partnership with Paes himself in the past, felt the need to reward recent performances and thus took the bold step of leaving out India’s seasoned pros.
Also read: Davis Cup: No longer the World Cup of tennis
Paes, who was on course to becoming the most successful doubles player in the history of the Davis Cup – he has 42 wins to his name – will now have to wait for India's next tie. The 43-year-old is tied with Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy.
Coming back to the squad, Vishnu Vardhan has also been named as a training partner.
India will take on Uzbekistan in the Asia-Oceania tie beginning April 7. Uzbekistan will be the favourites going into the tie, considering that they have World No. 70, Denis Istomin, in their ranks. Istomin recently claimed the biggest scalp of his career when he knocked Novak Djokovic out of the Australian Open earlier this year.
It is surprising that the selection committee have opted for four singles specialists, especially considering the fact that doubles has long been India's strength. The pressure will be on Yuki Bhambri to win at least one, if not both, of his singles ties to keep India in the hunt for promotion to the World Group.