SENIOR PRO Leander Paes has opted out of next month’s Davis Cup tie against New Zealand as selectors announced a four-member team to be led by singles stars Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri. Paes had played in the World Group play-off tie against Serbia in Bangalore, which India lost 2-3 in September last year. In Paes’ absence, seasoned Rohan Bopanna and Saketh Myneni will do the doubles duty in the July 17-19 tie, to be held in Christchurch.
Talented youngster Ramkumar Ramanathan is also in the side as a reserve player. Selection Committee chairman SP Misra said,
“Paes has opted out since he has other commitments. He said he was not available for this tie. The singles players, Yuki and Somdev select themselves.”
Misra said since it was an away tie, one reserve has been kept in the side. Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan was part of the squad in the Bangalore tie along with Ramkumar. India coach Zeeshan Ali said,
“Paes has not given any specific reason but he said he would be available for the next tie in September.”
Zeeshan is of the view that the conditions would be challenging for his side, which would surely start as favourite.
“On paper we appear strong. But we will be playing in 5 to 8 degrees temperature. We are not used to playing in such extreme cold conditions although we will be playing indoors. And they are a different side from the one which travelled to Chandigarh and lost 0-5 (in 2012). Their two players are in top-100 doubles and doing well.”
While New Zealand have no singles players featuring even in top-300, they have three in doubles top-100 – Artem Sitak (42), Michael Venus (52) and Marcus Daniell (78). Zeeshan also said that the team will travel to Christchurch one week before the tie. He said,
“We can’t go earlier due to Wimbledon,”
In the head-to-head record, India have beaten New Zealand four times in seven ties.
Meanwhile, New Zealand have retained the squad which defeated beat China in their last Davis Cup clash.
Rubin Statham, Michael Venus, Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak make the team. Statham is currently placed 342nd in the world.
Venus is ranked 5 2nd in the doubles, while Daniell is at the 78th spot. Sitak is New Zealand’s top-ranked doubles player at 42 in the world.