What's the story?
An extended Indian team will be traveling to Croatia for their Davis Cup tie. The team will have 3 doubles specialists - Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna, and Divij Sharan. This is being done to help all of them meet the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualification criteria.
In case you didn't know
Qualification for the tennis events at the Tokyo Olympics is based on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings for men and Women's Tennis Association (WTA) rankings for women that would be published on 8th June 2020.
A total of 32 teams qualify for the men's doubles event at the Games with a limit of 2 pairs per nation. The players ranked in the top 10 of the rankings qualify directly and have an option to choose any other player from their country as the partner. The rest of the slots are filled based on the combined rankings of the pair.
Additionally, the players are only eligible to be included if they have been part of their Davis Cup teams at least thrice during the Olympic cycle from 2016 to 2020. This requirement was later reduced to two Davis Cup events in case the country was only part of the Davis Cup Zonal Group for three of the four years or if the player had played for their country at least twenty times.
Also Checkout: The Davis Cup 2020 Schedule
Heart of the matter
The Indian Davis Cup team will be facing Croatia in the World Group qualifying clash in Zagreb, Croatia on 6th and 7th March.
All India Tennis Association (AITA) has named an extended squad of 6 members for the tie with 3 doubles specialists - Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna, and Divij Sharan. This has been done to help all of them meet the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualification criteria.
India's Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali confirmed that the squad will be pruned down to 5 members just before the draw ceremony.
“The final five will be decided before the draw ceremony on Thursday"
With the Davis Cup format having four singles and one doubles tie, it is expected that India would be retaining all the 3 singles players and one of the doubles players will be left out just before the draw.
The minimum tie qualification criteria should not impact Leander or Bopanna as they are Davis Cup veterans and have represented the nation innumerable times. But it could be a stumbling block for Divij as he has represented the nation only in two ties so far in his career. The first time he represented the country was in 2012 against New Zealand and his second tie was last year against Italy. Keeping this in mind, he is definitely expected to make the final squad.
Zeeshan added that the players are expected to reach Zagreb on 28th February and would start the preparations for the tie from 29th February.
“Depending on how the players fare in the tournaments, the team is expected to meet in Zagreb on February 28, and will start training on 29th. The main venue is available to us only from the March 2, but AITA has arranged an alternate venue with similar indoor courts for us to practise and get acclimatised”
The Indian team would be hoping to put a good performance in Zagreb and qualify for the Davis Cup World Group.
The qualifications for the Tokyo Olympics would certainly be at the back of their minds with this probably being the last chance for the golden generation of Indian tennis to bag a till now elusive doubles medal in tennis.