It wasn’t the kind of comeback he had in mind but as long as he is playing at the highest level in India colours, Sanam Singh will certainly not mind how he makes it back to the Indian Davis Cup team.
Earlier, drafted into the Indian Davis Cup team for the World Group play-off berth against South Korea in Busan, Korea, as a reserve player, Sanam made it as a playing member when Yuki Bhambri was forced out due to a knee injury. His comeback was made even more memorable when captain Anand Amritraj chose the Chandigarh player ahead of higher-ranked Saketh Myneni for the second singles.
At 371, Sanam is 115 places below Saketh but got the nod to play against Korea’s number one player Lim Yong-Kyu, ranked 300th, in the second singles on Friday. India’s No. 1 Somdev Devvarman opens the campaign against 377th ranked Chung Hyeon in the first singles.
“Both Sanam and Saketh are in good form but Sanam’s experience of playing in Korea during his junior days must have earned him brownie points. Moreover, he showed comfort while playing at the slow surface in Korea,” said Gajendra Singh, director (coaching) of CLTA who was Sanam’s coach during his junior days.
It was exactly a year ago when Sanam last played in a Davis Cup tie against Indonesia in Bangalore, which the Indians won 5-0. The 26-year-old had paired with Leander Paes in the doubles encounter. Even though Sanam made it to the Indian Davis squad as a reserve player in the tie against Chinese Taipei held in Indore earlier this year, he was not chosen as a playing member. The emergence of new talents like Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Ramkumar Ramanathan and the steady performance of Yuki and Saketh made things tougher for him as the selectors were always going for the higher-ranked players ahead of him.
“Making a comeback in the Davis Cup and playing against Korea will do his confidence a world of good. Sanam has had some good performances recently in both singles and doubles, and he should be raring to go,” added Gajendra.
After managing just three titles in 2013, Sanam made a great start to the year by winning two doubles ATP Challengers titles and an ITF futures doubles title while partnering Saketh in Bhimavaram last month. As a result, his doubles ranking shot to career-best of 205. And while he made it to finals of two consecutive ITF futures tournaments last month, Sanam has been unable to add another singles title after winning in Calabasas in the USA in March last year.
“I am doing well in singles but my focus is on improving my singles ranking and making it to the Indian team. And I am also looking to play in Grand Slam qualifiers. If there is an improvement in ranking, I’m hoping to play in Grand Slams too,” Sanam had said after reaching the semi-finals in the ITF men’s futures in Chandigarh in February.
In the absence of Yuki , who helped India thrash Chinese Taipei 5-0 in their last Davis Cup tie, the pressure will be on Sanam to provide India, who are seeking a World Group play-off berth for the first time since 2008, the cushion on the first day. Sanam’s best friend and India No. 1 Somdev Devvarman, ranked 88th, will open the campaign against 377th ranked Chung Hyeon.
In 2013, when these two sides met, the Koreans beat India 4-1 in New Delhi. This time also India are in for a tough challenge as they have never beaten Korea in an away tie, and also trail 3-6 in the head-to-head record.