Davis Cup preview : India vs Czech Republic
India will take on two time former champions Czech republic in the world group play-offs which start at the RK Khanna Tennis stadium on Friday. They have a tough task ahead as the Czech team, despite Tomas Berdych's absence, has fielded a strong team. However, the Indian team sounded upbeat ahead of the match. Here are some of the important factors in the tie:
Berdych misses out on action
Former champions Czech Republic have made their journey to India without the services of their top singles player Tomas Berdych. Berdych and Radek Stepanek have been instrumental in winning the two Davis cup titles in 2012 and 2013, and attaining the top ranking in the team event, which they still hold. The presence of Berdych would have made it an easy affair for the Czechs.
In the absence of Berdych, a similar Czech team won the quarterfinals against a Japan, though against a team that notably had Kei Nishikori absent from it. Interestingly, during their two consecutive title runs, Berdych missed a tie only once- against Kazakhstan in 2013.
Earlier this year, the team played without both their star players and now stare at Group 1 relegation, if they don’t manage to tame India at their own backyard.
Rosol, Vesely, Stepanek and Pavlasek will look to assert the Czech power despite Berdych’s absence. While veteran Stepanek is having an arduous journey back to the top of the game after his injury woes, the youngster in the team is enjoying his best season so far. 22 year old Jiri Vesely reached two finals at ATP 250 events at New Zealand and Romania, winning the first to clinch his first title on the ATP tour.
More recently, he reached the third round at the US Open, before retiring in his match against John Isner. If his injury doesn’t play spoil sport, he could be difficult to beat. The second singles player will be Lukas Rosol. He has had a decent year so far, but could be the easier of the two to beat. If the tie goes to the deciding rubber, the Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil could also seek the services of experienced Stepanek to seal the tie.
Yuki Bhambri leads the Indian challenge
Indian singles challenge is spearheaded by top ranked player Yuki Bhambri. the 23-year old won a challenger event last week to reach the ranking of world no.125, his career best. He is currently enjoying his best year so far. He started the year by qualifying for the Australian Open main draw, where he lost to Andy Murray. In the previous tie against New Zealand in Christchurch, Bhambri played a crucial role in scripting a 3-2 victory.
For India to enter the World group next year, he will have to come up with better performances. If he is able to continue his good form, he might create an upset or two. With both the Czech player ranked in the top 100, it might be a difficult task for Bhambri to do.
Devvarman looks to continue winning streak at Delhi
Somdev Devvarman might not be enjoying a very good season on tour, but he has maintained his ranking close to the top 150, thanks to the two challenger titles that he won earlier this year. The first came at the New Delhi challenger, held at the RK Khanna tennis stadium, the same venue which will host the Davis Cup tie this weekend. In fact, Devvarman is undefeated at these courts for at least the last two years, when he claimed back to back challenger titles.
It will be interesting to see if Devvarman can create some upsets at the courts where he has not lost in the last two years. Infact, when Bhambri failed to create an impact, it was Devvarman who leveled the tie 2-2 against Serbia at last year’s world group play-offs in Bengaluru.
Paes-Bopanna look to bag crucial doubles tie
As has been the case for quite some years now, India’s doubles players enter the tie as the favourites to score a win. Recently crowned US Open mixed doubles champion Leander Paes will team up with Rohan Bopanna to face the Czech team of Adam Pavlasek and Radek Stepanek. The two have played on three previous occasions at the Davis cup, winning two of them, including a thriller against the Serbs last year that stretched to five sets.
This time, they will have to ensure a win in doubles to keep alive hopes of upsetting the top ranked Czechs. They will play Paes’ former partner Radek Stepanek and Adam Pavlasek on Saturday.
Schedule of play
Friday (starting at 10 am IST)
Yuki Bhambri vs Lukas Rosol
Somdev Devvarman vs Jiri Vesely
Saturday (starting at 12 pm IST)
Rohan Bopanna/Leander Paes vs Adam Pavlasek/Radek Stepanek
Sunday (starting at 10 am IST)
Yuki Bhambri vs Jiri Vesely
Somdev Devvarman vs Lukas Rosol