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BENGALURU:India’s most decorated Davis Cup player Leander Paes and the country’s foremost singles star Somdev Devvarman are both set to miss the second round of the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I tie against South Korea to be held in Chandigarh from July 15 to 17. A win here will give India a World Group playoff berth.
The tie, which comes a month prior to the Rio Olympics, will be played on grass — Paes’ favoured surface. But it is learnt that the 42-year-old, who is gunning for his seventh Olympic games, had made himself unavailable for Davis Cup duties at the start of year.
Paes last played for India in the dispiriting loss to the Czech Republic last September in the World Group playoff. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the veteran, for, the seventh Olympic Games has been his No.1 priority for a while now.
For Devvarman though, a foot injury has put paid to his hopes. The 31-year-old hasn’t been playing since March and has seen his ranking slip to 335.
As a result, the team, which will be named on June 11 along with the squad for the Olympics, is likely to feature the three highest ranked singles players in Yuki Bhambri (147), Saketh Myneni (150), Ramkumar Ramanthan (224) and Rohan Bopanna.
Bhambri, who has been nursing a tennis elbow, is expected to return in time for Wimbledon in June.
“We are still waiting for Yuki,” said Captain Anand Amritraj.
“He hasn’t played in April and May. He is just starting to play. But Somdev is a big loss. He has played so well for us and has been our mainstay. It’s a pity.”
The choice of grass in part might be owing to Devvarman’s absence, for the lead singles player’s taste often drives the decision and Devvarman is predominantly a hard-court player.
“I checked with the boys,” explained Anand on the choice of grass. “The Koreans won’t be comfortable. Psychologically they will not be happy.
“It will be after the grass season and some of them haven’t seen a grass court before! For us, with big serving guys like Saketh or Ramkumar, it gives the best chance of beating them.
“Also Chandigarh, or for that matter the whole of India, will be so hot in July. So between the grass and the heat, we hope to beat them.”
Amritraj is in his third year as the Davis Cup captain. But, unlike previous Davis Cup captains he won’t be accompanying India’s Olympic contingent.
“To me the Davis Cup is more important. We have to win this tie somehow. I enjoy the Davis Cup role.
“The agreement is sort of open-ended. I am excited to continue doing it for the foreseeable future.”