It is not often that a seeded team enters a Davis Cup tie as rank outsiders despite playing at home, but such is the disparity between the teams that India appear nonchalant while facing South Korea in the Round 2 Asia/Oceania tie in Busan, despite having a dismal record against them.
India have never won a Davis Cup tie in South Korea, losing their two last ties 4-1. Yet, they enter this crucial encounter — in non-playing captain Anand Amritraj’s words — worrying about nothing. “Look, you still have to go out there and win. It all boils down to how well our boys play on that day, but we are well-prepared for the tie. Hopefully, we will return with our first-ever win in South Korea,” Amritraj said.
Yuki Bhambri’s withdrawal adds a slight twist to India’s preparation. Vijat Amritraj has nominated Sanam Singh, who stepped in for the injured world No. 147, to play the second singles rubber ahead of higher-ranked Saketh Myneni.
Singh has won both his Davis Cup matches till date — against Indonesia last year and New Zealand in 2012. He also comes into the tie on the back of impressive performances in the Futures tournaments.
But India will pin their hopes on its highest-ranked player Somdev Devvarman, who will play the first rubber against Hyeon Chung, ranked 377. The 28-year-old Indian has been going through a rough patch since winning the Delhi Open challenger tournament in February.
Devvarman has not had much to cheer about recently. Though he boasts of a win over the injured World No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, he has lost four out of five matches since his win in Delhi. However, Devvarman enjoys the Davis Cup, which seems to get the best out of him — he won both his matches against Chinese Taipei in January on the back of poor results, before claiming the Delhi Open title. The Indian team management is not concerned. “He played against quality opponents in the qualifiers (on the US circuit). But Som has been hitting the ball well in the practice sessions. He looks solid as ever and we aren’t concerned,” Amritraj says.
Rohan Bopanna and Myneni will pair up for the doubles on Saturday. Though history favours them, the Koreans seem to lack firepower to trouble the visitors. Their highest-ranked player in the squad, Yong-Kyu Lim, is ranked 300. He’s backed up by 17-year-old Chung, who hasn’t played a Davis Cup tie yet, and Sang-Woo Noh, ranked 1183. Noh is a last-minute replacement for 447th-ranked Suk-Young Jeong.
Veteran Hyung-Taik Lee, who isn’t ranked as a singles player and holds a place just inside the top 1000 for doubles, rounds out the side. Former world No. 36, Lee, who retired in 2009, has been called back for the tie. Amritraj is confident. “Our players are better ranked and more experienced. I am not worried about anything going into the tie. Our boys will deliver.”
The Draw: H Chung vs S Devvarman; Y Lim vs S Singh; H Lee/S Non vs R Bopanna/S Myneni; Y Lim vs S Devvarman; H Chung vs S Singh. Live on Neo Sports: 7:30a m