After the week long preparation camp in New York, the Indian Davis Cup team has been forced to make a change to the squad that will play Canada for the World Group playoff this Friday. Reserve player N Sriram Balaji has been ruled out of the tie after suffering an ankle injury during the camp held at the Columbia University’s indoor courts. In place of Balaji, team captain Mahesh Bhupathi has called up doubles specialist Purav Raja as a replacement.
“Balaji had injured his ankle a few weeks back and he was carrying the injury when he came here,” says team coach Zeeshan Ali. “We were hoping he’d recover in time, but we realised early in the camp that he won’t be at 100 percent.”
The 27-year-old had been named as a reserve player in the six-man team Bhupathi had drawn up for the tie. Raja will now join the team as a reserve, along with fellow reserve Prajnesh Gunneswaran and the nominated quartet of Ramkumar Ramanathan, Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni and Rohan Bopanna.
“Purav was in New York as well during the time because of the US Open, and he’d been helping the team during the camp. So we approached him,” says SP Misra, chairman of the AITA selection committee. “He will serve as a reserve doubles player, and fits in well since he plays on the left and Rohan like to play on the deuce court side.”
Balaji’s inclusion to the squad came as a result of his impressive showing during the second round zonal tie against Uzbekistan at Bangalore in April. Playing in his Davis Cup debut, the world no 134 in doubles rankings had paired up with Bopanna to register a straight sets win against Sanjar Fayziev and veteran Farrukh Dustov to secure the tie for India. His good form continued, as he picked up two Futures and as many Challengers doubles titles since then.
Meanwhile Raja’s ranking has jumped up after his second round finish at the US Open where he partnered Leander Paes. The world no 56 has won a Challenger so far this season, while on the ATP circuit, he managed a finalist result at the Chennai Open, along with semi-final finishes at Montpellier and Los Cabos.
Though a reserve player for the tie against Canada, Raja has previously featured in a Davis Cup tie, when he paired up with Paes to win the doubles rubber during India’s 4-1 loss to South Korea in 2013.
The Indian team had assembled in New York last week for the training camp that was organised to allow them a chance to acclimatise to indoor conditions. This Friday, the team will face Canada for the first time in the Davis Cup, with the hosts picking the Northlands Coliseum indoor courts in Edmonton as the venue. Raja had attended the camp early as a sparring partner for the original six. Now, the 31-year-old finds himself as a part of the team itself.