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India in with chance to surprise Serbia in Davis Cup

Bangalore,11th September -2014,(IANS): After four years, almost to the day, India get another opportunity to get back into the elite World Group of the Davis Cup when they face 2010 champions Serbia in a play-off at the KSLTA Stadium starting here Friday.

Opening the proceedings will be Yuki Bhambri and Dusan Lajovic who play the first singles at 3 p.m. (local time). They will be followed by Somdev Devvarman and Filip Krajinovic.

The doubles match is scheduled for a 6.30 p.m. start Saturday with the Indian pair of Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna taking on Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac.

The tie will conclude Sunday when the two reverse singles will be played with Devvarman taking on Lajovic at 4 p.m. and then Bhambri meeting Krajinovic.

Neither team expressed any concern at the draw, but predicted a close match although both the Serbian singles players are much higher ranked than their Indian counterparts.

The draw ceremony was held Thursday at the Vidhana Soudha, seat of the Karnataka government with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah doing the honours.

Honestly, it makes no difference who starts first, but I am happy that Yuki is starting for us, said the Indian team’s non-playing captain Anand Amritraj at the post-draw media conference.

Bhambri, ranked 153, too seemed unperturbed at playing the first singles against No.61 Lajovic and, in fact, said he was happy to start the proceedings rather than wait and play the second match.

In fact, it is better that I am starting first rather than wait to play the second singles. Hopefully, I can give a 1-0 start, said Bhambri.

Devvarman, whose ranking has slipped to 144 from a high of 62 a couple of seasons ago, is in good form after a disappointing start to the year, and declared himself match fit and looked forward to playing Krajinovic who is 107 in ATP rankings.

We have played each other a couple of times, I think in 2009. But that was a long time ago and now, we are both different players. I will put my best foot forward, said Devvarman.

Thus, Serbia, without three key players in World No.1 Novak Djokovic, Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki, would be depending on their young guns Lajovic (24) and Krajinovic (22) to score two points on the first day.

Both the Serbs expressed confidence of pulling through their matches, though, they felt that conditions could be a factor given the humidity and altitude with the ball travelling faster through the air.

It is good that we came here early and been here for six days. We have got used to the conditions, but expect a tough match, said Krajinovic.

The Indian strategy was spelt out by Amritraj when he said one of the plans would be to keep the Serbs on court for as long as possible, a tactic that helped India beat Brazil in the 2010 World Group play-off tie at Chennai 3-2 after being down 0-2.

For the Serbs, it is an unfamiliar territory after having been in the World Group since 2009, besides winning the Cup in 2010 and reaching the final last year.

Though, the visitors have put on a brave front in the absence of their top three players.

Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic was happy that 38-year-old doubles specialist Zimonjic, their most experienced player, was around to help the team on and off the court.

On his part, Zimonjic, currently ranked No.3 in doubles, agreed that Saturday’s match against Paes and Bopanna could well hold the key to the tie.

It will be a difficult match. There are no secrets as we have played Bopanna before and also Paes. The Indians are slight favourites, but we will give our best. As for me, I will support the team on and off the court, said Zimonjic.

In fact, the last time the two teams met, in 2001 on the hard indoor courts of Novi Sad, Serbia won 4-1 with Zimonjic and Bozoljac defeating Bopanna and Devvarman in four tight sets after the teams had shared points on the first day.

The doubles win put Serbia in front and Troicki clinched the tie by winning the first reverse singles against Devvarman who had shocked higher ranked Tipsarevic on the first day.

The nominations for the doubles and reverse singles can be changed up to one hour before scheduled start.

The draw:

Friday (Singles): Yuki Bhambri vs Dusan Lajovic (3 pm) followed by Somdev Devvarman vs Filip Krajinovic.

Saturday (Doubles): Leander Paes/Rohan Bopanna vs Nenad Zimonjic/Ilija Bozoljac, from 6.30 pm.

Sunday (Reverse singles): Devvarman vs Lajovic, (4 pm), followed by Bhambri vs Krajinovic.

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