While the rest of the world is agog about the chances of Switzerland winning the Davis Cup, Indian Davis Cup fans are keener about the prospect of India meeting Serbia in the World Group Play-offs and their chances of making it to the World Group next year.
India’s performances at the Davis Cup have been quite polarising, to say the least. At one time, periodically at regular intervals in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the Indian Davis Cup team was fancied as favourites when the likes of the Amritrajs and the Krishnans gave the Indian contingent quite a few reasons to brag about the country’s tennis representation in the most exalted of playing stages.
The country’s fortunes at the event have, since then, been extremely tumultuous. It is not known for sure whether this happened because of the quality of tennis talent that the country produced and nurtured or whether it just had to do with players from other countries showing significant improvement. But no matter the cause, and despite having big names like Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi leading from the front, the participation of the Indian Davis Cup team was reduced to being a mere formality, merely making up for the numbers where in the past it used to create records in this very tournament.
It’s only been in the past four years that the Indian team has managed to bring back a semblance of the fight that it used to put up decades ago. There’s however more than what meets the eye about the seeming rehabilitation of the Indian team as proven by it’s victory over South Korea in the Group I Asia/Oceania second round at Busan and even in it’s victory against Chinese Taipei in the round before that.
In the past where Paes and Bhupathi used to be the front-runners for the Indian team, to the point of bringing in a whole lot of overconfidence regarding India’s assured success in the doubles, the Indian team that played Chinese Taipei and South Korea consisted of the newer generation of Indian tennis players led by Somdev Devvarman.
Though Paes and Bhupathi were missed by their legion of fans, India’s victory over it’s opponents negated any lingering doubts about how well it would do in the Davis Cup in the absence of its two senior-most players. While in their second round match against South Korea, the team captain Anand Amritraj’s decision to replace higher ranked Saketh Myneni with Sanam Singh in the singles was questioned, the overall performance of the team ensured that the issue didn’t fester for too long.
Indeed, once the draw for the World Group Play-offs were released, the focus shifted back, along with the doubts, about whether India can defeat Serbia, the top-seeded team, and make it to the World Group for the third time since 2010. It’s a tall order, there’s no denying that. More so when considered that Serbia would, in all possibility, play their full strength squad consisting of the indefatigable Novak Djokovic alongside Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki.
The only control at this point that India has over it’s opponents is the choice of ground, and the playing surface, as the host nation. Everything else is beyond reach, including predicting the result of the tie that would see one of the teams proceeding ahead, while the other takes a step back to try and regain lost ground at the start of the new playing season.
Indian tennis fans will hope for India to take its place in the World Group even as many things will revert back to their previous state of existence. Doubles will once again come to be the one point of assured confidence for the fans, with or without Paes and Bhupathi, while in singles expectations will be on the Serbians to miss quite a few of their chances so as to help India get through.
As seen in the quarter-finals so far, unpredictability has been the axis around which Davis Cup matches have revolved, making the event so intriguing. Indian tennis fans too will be counting on such unpredictability for India to further the story of their Davis Cup exploits this year. While this story may turn out to be quite a niche picture, at the end of the day, it will be one that will be no less interesting than the prospect of Switzerland or Italy setting up a dream clash against either defending champions Czech Republic or France come December.Published 09 Apr 2014, 17:13 IST