There may be no well-known or commanding names to lead Indias fresh faces in the Davis Cup tie against New Zealand,but playing at home in hot and humid conditions in Chandigarh,and on fast and pacy courts of the CLTA,were supposed to be their trump cards. Not if some of their well-prepared opponents are to be believed.
Having competed mainly on the lower rungs of the ATP circuit,New Zealands top guy Jose Rubin Statham believes that weather,however hot and different as it may be from his home-town of Auckland,is the least of his concern.
The Indians may be used to these conditions,but I have played in a lot of humid countries and had good results, boasts Statham,a man who has accumulated 18 wins for his country in Davis Cups so far. The tournaments I won this year were in Vietnam and Thailand,which are as humid. In similar conditions in Colombo,Sri Lanka,I won a five hour 45 minute five-setter in 2010 and then played the deciding fifth match to win the tie as well, he said.
Visitors have traditionally struggled to complete five-setters in India. Last year in Chennai,Brazils Thomas Bellucci conceded a match to Somdev Devvarman due to cramps. But 25-year-old Statham is sure he is covered in that department. If anything,the longer the match goes,I have a better chance at winning it actually. I dont remember losing a match ever because I couldnt keep up physically in the end. The weather is not a negative factor for me at all, Statham,a man who started off as a football player and clearly used to tiring,physical tests,said.
Statham isnt the only one to come prepared; the Kiwi camp knew just what they were up against when the match-up was announced. The New Zealanders have prepared themselves well for the challenge,adjusting body clocks and also including in their supprt staff a chef who caters solely to their high-carb needs and ever-ready with salts and electrolytes.
Veteran Kiwi Daniel King-Turner,who will play in the first rubber against Yuki Bhambri,feels that their Asia tour prior to this Davis Cup tie was solely to get them up and ready for this weather.
We started out the Asia swing keeping this tie in mind. We could do an hour of tennis three weeks back in Bangkok,now we can do four in similar conditions, Turner said. But what about the fact that they are not carrying any reserves in case of injuries? Turner has the answer. We have spaced out the draw in a way that Michael (Venus),who is coming off a hip surgery,has to play only the doubles,while Statham and I have enough time to recover for the reverse single, he added.
New Zealands non-playing captain for the past three years,Marcel Vos,concedes that the weather is a challenge,but feels that his players can adapt. If its turning out to be a long match,they will use their minds rather than bodies. They are experienced enough to do some smart thinking on the court,not tire themselves out by running for every ball, said Vos. They should keep points short when they have to be kept short.