The celebrations seemed slightly over the top. Multiple victory laps, a special guard of honour for non-playing captain Anand Amritraj, the waving of the tricolor with speakers blaring patriotic songs in the background at the Indore Tennis Club. They did it twice – once after clinching the tie following the doubles win on Saturday and then again after winning both reverse singles completing the 5-0 whitewash of Chinese Taipei on Sunday.
One could mistake it for a famous win in the World Group instead of a victory over a depleted opponent in round one of continental playoffs. It was a small step in that direction, nevertheless. And it showed what it meant to the players.
For long, the Indian Davis Cup team has been a divided house; there has been a lot of bickering within. Not much faith was laid on this young bunch as well. But led by Amritraj and coach-cum-selector Zeeshan Ali, they came up with a clinical win.
It reflected in the way they played and supported each other during the three days of this tie. But this was just the first hurdle that India has crossed en route to regaining the spot in the elite group of top-16 teams. And to qualify for the world group and continue staying there, it will take much more than just healthy team spirit.
Contrary to what the score line suggests, the win against Taipei was hardly the expected cakewalk. Even Ali said they were ‘lucky’ to be 2-0 ahead by the end of first two rubbers. Taipei, without their top two players, exposed India’s shortcomings and almost made it count. Somdev Devvarman would consider himself extremely fortunate to win his tie, which was dragged out over five sets, and the doubles team of Rohan Bopanna and Saketh Myneni too were not convincing. Yuki Bhambri, who braved an injury to win the opening rubber, enhanced his reputation with a ruthless performance in the reverse singles against Hsein-Yin Peng.
Work in progress
This team is still a work in progress. The rebuilding process in the post Lee-Hesh era was always going to be an arduous process. So if anything, the tie against Taipei will be a reassurance for Amritraj and Ali that they are heading in the right direction. Next match against South Korea, where the same team is likely to be retained, will provide a clearer picture. India will enter the tie against the unfancied Koreans as favourites and if they win, they will qualify for the world group playoff, which will be this bunch’s ultimate test.
Former Davis Cupper Vijay Amritraj was bullish about the current crop’s prospects. “We can get to the World Group. The boys are good enough. Yuki played well against (world number 16) Fabio Fognini (during Chennai open). Those kinds of matches give you confidence. He is getting into continued…