At Indore India completed 5-0 rout of Chinese Taipei in the first round of Asia Oceana Group 1 Davis Cup tie.
Davis cup is a tournament where India has always punched above their weight. In the past India has defeated nations much above them, despite of having inferior players in ATP rankings. Part of the success story for India in Davis Cup tennis is because of having a superb doubles team. Amritraj Brothers (Vijay and Anand) carried Indian flag in doubles in the nineties. India was successful in reaching the last Davis Cup final in 1987, largely due to them.
Then Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati appeared on the stage. Together they played 25 matches and registered win in 23 of them. Bhupati then parted his ways but Leander continued in his specialist area. Leander still holds the record for most doubles wins (36) for India.
For some years, the Davis Cup team of India is facing acute shortage of a specialist double pair. Problem started when partnership of Bhupati and Paes broke away. Leander Paes has stopped playing for the national team for about a year (he has played for the country for 21 long years). Bhupathi has an uncertain future.
Since 2010, India has tried multiple combinations in doubles- Purav Raja, Divij Sharan, Vishnu Vardhan and Sanam Singh have shown their skills. It is a sad point that India’s best department for long is running short of decent staff. Saketh Myneni and Rohan Bopanna played well in this tie but they too faced problems. They should be given more opportunities and it is too early to comment on them.
India’s 5-0 white wash is only a baby step in the direction of road to World Group stage. India will play next against South Korea. It should be easy. Zeeshan Ali and Vijay Amritraj are hopeful that India will perform well at that stage. But both admitted in unison that it was a second grade squad of Chinese Taipai. It is for sure that had Yen Hsun Lu (world no. 53) and Jimmy Wang (world no. 141) played the tie then result could have been very different.
Somdev registered his only win in the singles but he was stretched to 5 sets (which lasted for 2 days). World ranked 313, Myneni bundled his opponent in his only single on the last day.
The silver lining of the fixture was double win of young Yuki Bhambri in the singles. Yuki has played brilliantly against World no. 16 Fabio Fognini at Chennai recently. Yuki is only 22 and can rise in the ATP ladder.
The win should be celebrated but the message is clear. If India wants to play World group stage more often than their hope rests on excellent doubles team, again.