Comeback man Mankad ready for Davis Cup challenge

April 6th, 2008 - 9:27 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Making a comeback in tennis and that too with Davis Cup team is always a tough ask. And Harsh Mankad is up against that challenge. After spending a year rehabiliting from a knee injury, the 28-year-old Mumbaikar has made a comeback in the circuit last November. And now he has been selected as the fifth member for the Indian team after three years for an important tie against formidable Japan in the Davis Cup starting here Friday.

“I had good run in the last few weeks. I started playing again in November last year and I knew that it would take a few months to get the rhythm back as my rehabilitation process took little longer,” said Mankad, who won the ITF Futures in Chandigarh Saturday after Rohan Bopanna conceded the final to rest his inflamed knee ahead of the Davis Cup encounter.

“Last week has been a big boost for me and I will use my last few weeks’ performance as a stepping stone,” he added.

Though Mankad is happy to return to the national squad after a long gap, he is not certain about his participation in the tie. He had already enrolled his name for the $75,000 Challenger tournament in Busan, South Korea, starting April 14 for which he is supposed to leave Thursday.

“I was not at all surprised to return to the Davis Cup team. I knew that the fifth spot is always open. If I play well and perform consistently there is always an opportunity,” Mankad said after a strenuous practice session with coach Nandan Bal at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association Sunday.

Asked whether he will skip the Busan Challenger for national duty, Mankad said: “I will leave it to the team management and take a decision only when I am clear about my role in the squad.”

Mankad, who had reached a career-best singles ranking of 222 in December 2005, started from the scratch and gained 17 rating points by virtue of his last few weeks’ consistent performance in the circuit.

Meanwhile, coach Bal sounded optimistic and said that India has an upper hand over Japan in the upcoming tie because of the playing conditions.

“All the Japanese players are gliders and they prefer to play from the back of the court. But they will have to face an Indian team who will be slicing a lot and the key will be to put a little doubt in their minds regarding the bounce,” said Bal.

“The surface is tailor-made for us.”

Asked whether there will be cordial atmosphere in the team following Bopanna, Prakash Amritraj and Mahesh Bhupathi’s unprecedented revolt against captain Leander Paes during the last tie against Uzbekistan, he said: “Absolutely, there will be cordial atmosphere in the team. Everybody is mature and we all are here for a purpose as we have given a commitment.”

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