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HomeSportsIndia hope to revamp Davis Cup ambitions in home tie against Morocco

India hope to revamp Davis Cup ambitions in home tie against Morocco

A home tie, opposition with players ranked several notches lower, and the fortune of players coming into the weekend in good form holds the Indian team in good stead against Morocco in their bid to rehabilitate their Davis Cup ambitions.

About 18 months on from India’s demolition of Denmark in New Delhi, they have catapulted down the competition’s pecking order, after losing away ties to Norway and a repeat against Denmark relegating them to the World Group 2 phase of the revamped Davis Cup format.

A win this weekend, in five matches played across Saturday and Sunday in Lucknow, will then hand India a place in the playoff tie next year which would give them the opportunity to get promoted back to World Group 1, still a far cry away from the Finals stage.

Lucknow – hosting its first Davis Cup tie in 23 years – may not be a traditional tennis destination like New Delhi, Chandigarh, or Chennai. But given Morocco’s underdog status for the tie – their highest-ranked player is the World No 465 Elliot Benchetrit – India may not have felt the need to host on the grass courts that are becoming increasingly alien to top international players, like they had done against Denmark last year; widening their pool of choices to stage the clash.

Rohan Bopanna will play his final Davis Cup tie during what has been a stellar Grand Slam year. The 43-year-old veteran reached the mixed doubles final at the Australian Open with Sania Mirza during her final Major, and just last week, narrowly lost the men’s doubles final at the US Open alongside Australia’s Matthew Ebden.

But Bopanna’s doubles mastery, if on display, will not enough to carry the team given the fact that of the five matches, four will be singles rubbers. India will then rely on the form of Sumit Nagal, who comes into the tie after a confidence and ranking-boosting runners-up performance at the Tulln Challenger after winning two events, in Rome and Tampere, on the Challenger tour this year.

Yuki Bhambri, whose steady progression on the doubles tour resulted in a first ATP title in Spain earlier this year alongside South Africa’s Lloyd Harris, will also turn out for India.

Lack of singles success stories

The current state of Indian tennis – only two singles players are currently in the world’s top 200 – is well represented in the Davis Cup team’s slide down to World Group 2 this year. Captain Rohit Rajpal, during a press conference to announce the five-member squad, addressed India’s lack of top talent production in tennis, bemoaning the lack of a “pipeline” for top players, and in comparing it with Eastern European countries, said India lacked top academies, and commitment to supporting players through the likes of sports science and analytics.

The gulf in class between India and corresponding tennis nations had never been more pronounced than in India’s last two ties, in which they took on top 10 players in Holger Rune and Casper Ruud, once again enforcing the point that singles success shapes a country’s tennis abilities.

“Not enough singles players have come since the time Somdev (Devvarman) and Yuki broke through,” he said. “A captain can be only as good his players.”

Rajpal added that the revamped format for the 118-year-old competition, and its “lack of second chances” have not helped India’s cause. “It’s a dangerous format. If you lose a tie, have a poor weekend, like we did against Denmark in their country, you get knocked to a playoff, but you can still play against a very strong country,” he said.

In the past, losing a World Group tie would relegate India to the Asian group, whereas now, playoffs and lower-rung ties are still played in a group consisting teams from all over the world.

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This format had been put in place after the International Tennis Federation (ITF)’s deal with Spanish footballer Gerard Pique’s investment company Kosmos, and while the 25-year deal was cut short and ends this year, according to the ATP’s schedule for 2024, the format looks set to stay in place barring any future announcements. Rajpal said a lot of countries are against the new format.

xxxSquads – Singles Ranking

India:

Sumit Nagal – 156Sasikumar Mukund – 365Digvijay Pratap Singh – 544Yuki Bhambri – 1177Rohan Bopanna – NA

Morocco:

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Elliot Benchetrit – 465Yassine Dlimi – 557Adam Moundir – 779Walid Ahouda – 1077Younes Lalami Laaroussi – 1369

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