An encouraging, heart-warming performance that augurs well for the future. These are the thoughts that come to mind immediately while describing India’s 5-0 victory over New Zealand in the Asia Oceania zone play off tie at Chandigarh over the weekend.
Sure, it was achieved against a side which has always been a lightweight in international tennis. True, their players were ranked below the Indians. But as is well known rankings hardly mean anything when it comes to Davis Cup. Moreover the Indian team is going through a major transitional phase and the fact that it was a totally new look side that romped home has not gone unnoticed.
Full marks to the Indian squad and while there may be those who will shrug off the victory as nothing very significant considering the opposition, the home advantage and also the fact that it came about in a zonal play off tie, this would not be fair to the young Indian team. After all it was the first time since the 2005 tie against Uzbekistan that India had made a clean sweep against an opponent in the Davis Cup.
Could this be the start of something big, a small step towards achieving greater things? One has to be careful in assessing the situation for the Indians have a long, hard road to traverse. For India to be back in the World Group - which one supposes is the first goal – Yuki Bhambri and company would have to show a lot of improvement.
One hopes that they will get the opportunities every young player needs to show that he belongs to a higher level. It is reasonable to assume that every one of the youngsters besides being talented has also a hunger for success. It is a highly competitive world out there and a laid back approach will not do if one has to aspire for great things.
They must realize that now with the AITA virtually turning their backs on the old guard they have an excellent chance to take India on the road to success and in the process become successful tennis players too. Their confidence levels must have received a shot in the arm by the AITA statement that it has decided to stick by the young squad.
It is still early days yet and they are still on the learning curve but there were positives to take home from the tie. The manner in which Yuki fought back from two sets down to defeat Daniel King-Turner in five sets in the opening rubber was commendable.
It is never easy in particular after losing a set 6-0 and it speaks highly of Yuki’s never say attitude that he took the rout in his stride and continued to serve and stroke smoothly while showing no signs of nerves. Vishnu Vardhan too was impressive in his four set victory over the Kiwi No 1 Jose Statham while the five set doubles win underlined the fact that Divij Sharan is a fine prospect.
The left hander has just broken into the top 100 in the ATP doubles ranking and is bound to climb higher than his present ranking of 94. He has the right attitude, is agile in covering the court and gives the impression that he could partner just about anyone and emerge as a successful doubles player. And as the icing on the cake local lad Sanam Singh too came good in the reverse singles.
For the next match in February 2013 it is hoped that Somdev Devvarman will return and this will make the team stronger. A fit Somdev is what the Indian team needs to bolster their chances of climbing up the ladder as the going gets tougher.
There must be a cloud of uncertainty over Leander Paes’ future as far as the Davis Cup is concerned. For one thing he will be 40 next year and while he is still playing well around the circuit perhaps it is time to look into the future especially when one considers that even for Davis Cup he will be available only for doubles. A start has been made in the right direction and it just might be a retrograde step to look back even if it means discarding a player of Paes’ record and experience.
And speaking of looking ahead one must commend the AITA for the strict disciplinary action they have taken against Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi. The duo did not exactly win friends during their petulant, ill timed and totally needless controversy over the selection of the Indian team for the Olympics.
They virtually held the parent body to ransom, created a lot of ill feeling among fellow players and lost a lot of goodwill with the tennis fraternity in the country. And after all these melodramatics they made an early exit at both the Olympics and the US Open.
Strong action needs to be taken against such errant players no matter what their record or reputation may be and the AITA deserve kudos in coming down hard on the duo. With the youngsters having started off well a start has been made and the correct approach would be to invest in youth rather than falling back upon veterans who consider themselves prima donnas.