Dubai: Tennis legend Leander Paes believes the younger brigade is capable of ushering a new era for Indian tennis.
The governing body for tennis, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) is currently trialing a new two-day format and best-of-three-set matches during the 2018 edition of Davis Cup. The two-day, best-of-three-sets trial does not apply to the World Group, which will continue to play ties over three days and best-of-five sets during the 2018 season.
The ITF Board also approved a trial to increase the size of teams in the World Group and Zone Groups I and II from four to a maximum of five players and give nations greater flexibility in team selection.
This move has certainly helped India among other nations with the All India Tennis Association (AITA) having the luxury of travelling with as many as three singles players and a specialised doubles pair during the year. After a first-round bye, India will meet China in their second round of the Asia/Oceania Zone Group I at the Tianjin Tennis Centre on April 6-7.
Indian tennis has been looking up with quite a few youngsters coming through the ranks. With the experienced Mahesh Bhupathi as captain, India now has former junior world No. 1 Yuki Bhambri being joined by the likes of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the singles, while the doubles has the reliable legend Leander Paes along with Rohan Bopanna, N. Sriram Balaji, Vishnu Vardhan and Purav Raja.
“Of course we are capable of qualifying to the Davis Cup final,” Paes told Gulf News after entering the semi-final of the doubles with a 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (7) win over fourth seeds Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus.
“Look how well Ramkumar [Ramanathan] is playing, he beat [Dominick] Thiem in Antalya. He played a great match on grass. Yuki [Bhambri] is playing well for many years. First, we had one good singles player and a good doubles team, but now we have two singles players. This can help us go a long way,” Paes added.
India has a great Davis Cup history and tradition since their debut way back in 1927. India has finished runners-up on three occasions — 1966, 1974 and 1987 — but is yet to lift the glittering trophy. Only India, and Romania have contested more than one Final without being crowned champions.
The Kolkata-born Paes is an endearing feature of Indian tennis, and not for any reason. He has the best 42-13 win-loss record in a career spanning 27 years and counting in Davis Cup doubles. The Indian squad for China is yet to be announced, and the faithful soldier that he is, Paes is always up for national duty. “Honestly, I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve. Now I am playing for me. I am enjoying my tennis. I just go out there and create shots that bring a lot of joy to me and to the people watching me,” Paes said.
“I am always ready to play for India, but more than anything it is about whether the team needs it or not. Right now it is Rohan playing, with a partner that he’s comfortable with. And as long as the team wins, that’s all I care about. I can, of course I can, but I don’t think that I will be part of that process. But if at the end of the day, I am called, then I will go,” he added.