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Somdev Devvarman: Davis Cup tie against Pakistan a test of Indian tennis depth

The Davis Cup World Group I play-off tie against Pakistan tie be held in Islamabad on February 3 and 4, will provide an idea of the depth of Indian tennis, according to India’s former Davis Cup captain Somdev Devvarman.

Here as a chief guest for the tennis singles finals of the Khelo India Youth Games, the 38-year-old, an Asian Games gold medallist in singles and doubles, told Sportstar that in the absence of Sumit Nagal, India’s highest-ranked player in ATP at 121, the other players should put their hands up and be counted.

“Strictly, if you look at world rankings there is a big gap between Sumit (121) and the second-best player (Ramkumar Ramanathan at 461). They (the other Indian players in the team) have to, at some point, need to take up responsibility and come out on top. We should beat Pakistan, home or away or neutral venue. Based on world rankings, experience and based on anything, we are way better. We should be the heavy favouries,” he said.

Somdev said Aisam Qureshi will be the player to beat as he will most likely play in singles and doubles, “Analysing the Pak team, Qureshi is the head of it, though. In terms of ability, match play and understanding of moments in high-pressure situations, Qureshi has got more experience than the other players they have. We have to be extra careful. Grass is Quereshi’s best surface.

“Even against India in the 2006 Asia Oceania Group I tie in Mumbai, Quereshi was a threat—he had defeated Rohan Bopanna in singles in the first match and Prakash Amritraj in the fourth rubber before the doubles duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won the decisive fifth rubber to win the match for India 3-2)–and will remain a threat now,” said the 2009 ATP Chennai Open runner-up in singles.

On the chances of the Indian team playing against host Pakistan after 50 years, Somdev said the Indian team is well placed to return to Group I: “Our team is what it is. Ram (Ramkumar) is there, Yuki (Bhambri) is there, very useful. He is playing top-level tennis. In terms of experience, there is Nikki (Poonacha). He has to play high pressure match. Better to play high-pressure match when you are the favourite. We are in a good position to win and get back to Word Group I.”

The new Davis Cup format introduced in 2019 is much easier than what it is today, felt Somdev. “I think it is easier today than it was during the time we played. We had home and away. More than that, we played five rubbers and each rubber was best of five sets. Now it is two singles and one doubles and each match is best of three sets. That’s why you see upsets,” he said.

Somdev, who is doing commentary on a private TV channel said if India, which has a 7-0 record against Pakistan in Davis Cup) plays objectively without giving in to emotions which generally involve a tie against Pakistan in any sport, it will win convincingly.

“It’s different on a tennis court. Pressure will be there. My experience is we will feel it before the match. I hope the boys’ can be objective, make it a proper tennis match and don’t make it emotional. Then we are the favourites,” he said.

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