New Delhi: It seems Leander Paes’ dream to surpass Italy’s Nicola Pietrangeli’s record of 42 doubles victories in the Davis Cup may now be fulfilled. The tennis stalwart has been named in India’s squad for next month’s Asia/Oceania Group I tie against China to be played in Tianjin.
Paes was dropped from the tie against Uzbekistan in April 2017 and was also not considered for the World Group Play-off against Canada.
“Doors were never closed on Paes. Our main aim was to choose the best team and earlier we could only choose a four-member team so we went with three singles and a doubles player but now we can name five. So we selected three singles and two doubles specialists,” Zeeshan Ali, the All India Tennis Association selection committee member said after a meeting held here on Sunday.
Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal and Rohan Bopanna are other members of the team while Divij Sharan has been kept in reserve.
“The team selection was based on current form and rankings. Bopanna is the highest ranked doubles player while Paes is two rung below Divij. But in Davis Cup, Paes is the most experienced player and he reached the Dubai Championship final last week… so we gave preference to him and kept Divij as reserve,” said Ali, who is also the team coach.
‘Paes, Bopanna best doubles combination’
Asked on Bopanna’s reluctance to pair up with Paes, Zeeshan said, “They should definitely put their personal differences aside and put their best foot forward for the country. At the end of the day, they are playing for the country.
“Paes and Bopanna will be the best doubles combination that we have.”
Zeeshan also said that by calling up Nagal, the selectors want to give a chance to young players to gain experience.
“Ram and Yuki are playing best tennis of their career and are consistent. Nagal is the third highest singles player in the country and he has done well last year. We want to promote young players in the team and it will be a great experience for him. Definitely, he earned his place in the team.”
Nagal and Ramkumar have already reached China to play Challengers and Yuki will join them soon and it will help the team to acclimatise well with the conditions there.
“On paper, we are a good team but in Davis Cup rankings do not matter much. Playing China in China will be tough. Last time we played against them it was a very close match as we won 3-2. They have good players and have home advantage as well.
“According to a new rule, the matches will be played across two days instead of three and China have advantage of playing in the new format. So we will see how well we will adapt to the new situation. This will be another challenge for us,” the Davis Cupper said. The other team members will reach Tianjin on April 31.