Goal is to get back into World Group, says Bhupathi

The Asian Age.  | Sandeep Menon

Sports, Tennis

India were never a team brimming with talent, at least as far as the last few decades are concerned.

Sriram Balaji (from left), Rohan Bopanna, Ramakumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran at a training session in Bengaluru on Tuesday, ahead of their Davis Cup Group I tie against Uzbekistan. (Photo: Shashidhar B.)

Bengaluru: If there is one thing that Indians bring to the sporting arena, it is passion. Transfer that onto the tennis court, and the answer to how India have done what they have in the Davis Cup becomes clear.

India were never a team brimming with talent, at least as far as the last few decades are concerned. Nor were they blessed with an outstanding player who could carry them over the line.

For India, it was always about passion. Pepper that with grit and hard work, then you have the team’s soul.

As the hosts ready to face Uzbekistan in a Group I tie, it’s passion that captain Mahesh Bhupathi looks to ride on, from his inexperienced team that includes Ramkumar Ramanathan, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sriram Balaji, all of whom are still rather untested in the five-set format which is often the deciding factor.

Speaking before the tie, Bhupathi said: “Fatigue goes out of the window when you’re playing Davis Cup. You have so many people pushing you and you’ve got the captain screaming at you.”

“There’s no way you’re going to throw in the towel. You are going to find a way to get through the match, whether win or lose. After that, most of the time, you pass out in the locker room.”

Asked about his expectation as non-playing captain, the former Grand Slam champion gave a blueprint of his plans.

“I think the main goal is trying to get everyone to believe that we can win and get back into the World Group. We have a young group of kids who finally have the ability to play on multiple surfaces. All three have the ability to serve 130 mph which I think in today’s power tennis is a big advantage.

“I think creating a team atmosphere and constantly working on a squad of six so we can pick players depending on the surface and opposition is key,” said the entrepreneur.

Dominance in the past
During his playing days, when he teamed with Leander Paes in the doubles, India started the tie virtually 1-0 up. Such was their dominance.

But those days are over as India have struggled to find the right combination or even win what was once their ace in the hole.

“We’ve always fielded what we thought was our best pair. You win some and you lose some. We (Leander and me) won 22 in a row so it doesn’t mean the legacy is going to continue. The Davis Cup is about winning three points, not one point. The focus needs to be on how we are going to win three points,” explained the 42-year-old adding that there had been a decline in specialist doubles players in general. Having already said that he would go in with three singles players and one specialist doubles man, speculation on whether it will be Paes or Rohan Boppanna has been running high.

“The conditions here are fast and we have some big servers on our team so we need to make the best of the conditions, (consider) the opposition and obviously the camaraderie. Once we put all those together, the team will come together,” he stated on the issue.