Need to be aggressive: Ramkumar Ramanathan

The captain is very important. Mahesh has played a lot of ties. He knows what to do on-court and off-court, Ram opined.

Bengaluru: Having been promoted as the spearhead following the withdrawal of Yuki Bhambri from the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group-I tie against Uzbekistan, Ramkumar Ramanathan believes an aggressive approach will be key to India’s fortunes.

This will be the Chennai-born star’s fourth Davis Cup and despite the lack of a big numbers in the tournament behind his back, Ramkumar is not flustered by the responsibility.

“There’s always pressure to play any Davis Cup. It’s always going to be tough to start but it is very important. We need to play a lot of sets (in practice) and get a little sharp before the tie,” the 267th-ranked said on Monday.

“The courts are really fast so the matches can change very quickly. We need to be very alert and play aggressive,” he added.

Asked about the opposition, he minced no words. “Whoever comes or not (Denis Istomin is yet to arrive) it’s going to be tough. Sanjar Fayziev is good and of course (Farrukh) Dustov is a very experienced player. I haven’t played any of them. I’ve seen Fayziev on tour. He’s a very quick and good player,” he stressed.

Ramkumar and state-mates, Prajnesh Gunnes-waran and Sriram Balaji, make up bulk of the team and for the former, there is comfort in the known. Add to the fact that he and Balaji can potentially play in the doubles tie, separately or the less likely option of together, it just adds another layer to the equation.

“Prajnesh is a great player and Bala plays great doubles. When I played with him in Chennai, he took control. With Bala, I did the National Games (as well). It’s always good to be together,” said the 22-year-old.

“It’s a team event and you have all your players, so they push you a lot. Staying focussed is easier with so many people supporting you from the outside.”

He also had good words for new captain Mahesh Bhupathi despite only playing under him for one day.

“The captain is very important. Mahesh has played a lot of ties. He knows what to do on-court and off-court,” he opined.

Meanwhile, the lanky star has been on a personal mission to improve his fitness and game. “I’ve been working a lot on injury prevention. Whenever I lose early in tournaments, I work on upper body strength for a day at least,” he said.

Meanwhile, Leander Paes, who won the Challenger doubles final with Adil Shamasdin in Leon, is expected to join the team on Tuesday but it remains to be seen if he will get the nod ahead of Rohan Boppanna.

Istomin may arrive on Wednesday
Uzbekistan’s top star Denis Istomin is yet to join his team-mates who are training at the KSLTA courts in Bengaluru. The world no. 71 is recovering from a foot injury in Tashkent and is expected to arrive in the city on Wednesday evening according to a team official.

It will be interesting to see if Istomin, who beat Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open earlier this year, will play on Day One following his arrival less than 48 hours before the game. Being the standout player of the team, Istomin missing the tie could potentially turn things heavily in India’s favour.

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