Mahesh Bhupathi may have already traded in his tennis attire for a suit. But the multiple Grand Slam winner insisted on Wednesday that he is ready to jump into the India colours once again if asked to. On Tuesday India were drawn against top seeds Serbia for the World Group playoff tie which will be held in September and Bhupathi said it was necessary for the hosts to ‘field a full-strength team to have a chance to upset one of the powerhouses of world tennis.’
There is a possibility that the Davis Cup selection committee may ask either Leander Paes or Bhupathi to partner Rohan Bopanna for the tie after coach Zeeshan Ali called for a specialist doubles team instead of a makeshift arrangement. In the last two ties against Chinese Taipei and South Korea, Saketh Myneni has partnered Bopanna.
Bhupathi has been sidelined by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for close to two years after the London Olympics selection fiasco. However, the 39-year-old said he’ll be willing to return if needed. “I am always available. I know the captain (Anand Amritraj) has talked about the same just like coach has. I think it is important because the doubles will be pivotal in that match, so lets see how things pan out,” Bhupathi said on the sidelines of the launch of tennis equipment manufacturer Wilson’s spin technology racquet.
Interestingly, Bhupathi had earlier said he would retire from professional tennis after this year’s Wimbledon in July and would then focus on the inaugural season of his pet project, the multi-million dollar International Tennis Premier League (IPTL), which is scheduled to kick-off in November.
Bhupathi and Paes were not a part of the travelling Indian team during the last meeting with Serbia in 2011, citing back and wrist injuries respectively. Novak Djokovic too opted out of that tie and Bhupathi said India’s ‘life could become easier’ if the world No. 2 decides not to play. There’s uncertainty over Djokovic travelling to India as the tie will be held immediately after the US Open. “We hope he doesn’t. Ideally for us if Novak doesn’t show up I think life could become easier,” Bhupathi said only half joking.
Bhupathi hailed the Indian team’s performance last weekend in South Korea. Riding on Somdev Devvarman’s impressive performance, India recorded its maiden win in South Korea which earned them a place in the playoff.
“It is very exciting. We have not beaten Korea in Korea before. I have been part of many teams that has been there and have come disappointed because it is so hard to beat those guys there. I think Somdev and the boys did amazingly well,” Bhupathi said.
He added that ‘anything could happen’ when the teams are travelling to India. “It is so far away (the Serbia tie). We don’t know who is playing for them and who is playing for us. Unfortunately, Yuki (Bhambri) was injured during the last tie. Ideally we need to field a full strength team to have a chance to upset one of the power houses of tennis,” Bhupathi said.