For a while,all eyes followed the large frame of Vishnu Vardhan,as he took an inspection walk around the centre court of the CLTA complex in Chandigarh on Thursday. Maybe because he was the only one amongst both sides a new-look India and an old-look New Zealand to have participated in the London Olympics. Or maybe because he was hand-picked by the Indian think-tank as this young home sides go-to man in this Asia-Oceania Group-I Davis Cup tie commencing Friday.
Against New Zealand on the fast and bouncy courts of Chandigarh,Vardhan will feature in both singles and doubles spanning the three-day length of this match-up. Given the responsibility of spearheading the Indian challenge,Vardhan certainly was the man who stole the limelight on the eve of the tie,a day when the draws were announced at the CLTA.
On Day One,Vardhan will take on the most experienced and the toughest of the Kiwi players Jose Rubin Statham. And thanks to the faith invested in him by Indias non-playing captain SP Misra,Vardhan will double up with Divij Sharan a boy to have recently broken into the ATP top-100 doubles ranking ensuring that local lad Sanam Singh will miss out on playing in front of his home crowd.
Vishnu was opted for because of his superior ranking. Also,it is a fact that he is in prime fitness at the moment. If we win on the opening day,then the spirits of the players will definitely go up. So,we took all these things into consideration before arriving at a decision, Misra said on Thursday.
Vardhan was also Indias revelation in the Olympics,not losing his serve even once despite playing the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julien Benneteau. Thanks to that and his mixed silver medal from the Busan Asiad with Sania Mirza,he was Indias first choice to fill in one half of the doubles spot that would have once been taken by the likes of Mahesh Bhupathi,Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna.
Vishnu and Divij have been playing since 2007 and they have very good understanding between them. However,everything depends on the opening match, added Misra. If Yuki and Vishnu can win their respective opening rubbers,then we will surely keep a fresh leg on the standby,a person who can replace Vishnu in the reverse singles. That could even be Sanam.
In the opening rubber,Yuki Bhambri,Indias best-ranked singles player in this lot,will take on Daniel King Turner a match he will be expected to win. But all eyes on Friday,just like the day before,will be on Vardhan when he meets Statham during the second singles.
The 25-year-old,however,remained unfazed by the weight of expectations on Thursday. I am ready to play on all the three days, Vardhan said. I know the captain and the coach have put much faith in me and they expect me to win matches for India.
Vardhan claims that the fast courts in Chandigarh are just the way he likes it,and that he has prepared intensely well for this moment. The big man added: I have taken great care of my fitness and we have had a few days of good practice. Leading up to this tie,I have been playing well. So I do think that I am up for the challenge. India,for the sake of this new generation,will certainly hope so.
Live on DD Sports: 10 am