History favours India against Japan in Davis Cup

April 10th, 2008 - 8:39 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) India will have to fight the demons within the team as they face Japan in the crucial Asia-Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie starting here Friday in their quest to qualify for the World Group after a gap of 10 years. India last played in the elite 16-nation World Group in 1998 and have not appeared in the play-offs since 2005.

The biggest challenge for Indian players would be to put up a united front after squabbles in the team surfaced during the last tie against Uzbekistan in February.

Mahesh Bhupathi joined forces with Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj in refusing to accept Leander Paes’ leadership. But the same bunch of players were forced to come together and play under Paes for this tie after All India Tennis Association (AITA) put the resolution of this issue on the backburner till the Olympics.

However, playing before a home crowd and on grass will work in the hosts’ favour. They can also take heart from their 17-3 record against Japan. The three defeats include the 2-3 loss in 2004 on a hard court in Osaka.

India’s record against Japan at home should also be a motivating factor for them, as they have won all their seven matches since 1961. Barring Takao Suzuki, no other player has enough experience of representing the country.

Though the Japanese are ranked much higher than the Indian players, their trump card in this tie will be 18-year-old debutant Kei Nishikori who recently won an ATP event.

Nishikori became the first Japanese player to win an ATP event in 16 years when he shocked top seed and the then world number 12 James Blake in the Delray Beach International final in February. But the teenager admitted that representing the country is altogether a different ball game and there will be little pressure on him when he takes the court Friday.

“I am little nervous but I am glad to represent my country,” said Nishikori.

India’s skipper Paes, with 18 years’ experience playing for the country and an Olympic medal, feels that Davis Cup is all about experience.

“Davis Cup is all about experience, especially if you are playing away from home. But what will work in Japan’s favour is Kei Nishikori’s form in singles matches,” said Paes.

In the first match of the tie Bopanna, ranked 325 in the world, will face Nishikori, while India’s number one Amritraj will take on second best Japanese player Go Soeda in the second match.

Bopanna, who was nursing an inflamed left knee and missed the practise Thursday, has been declared fit for the tie but only time will tell how much he has recovered.

The surface at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) also looks in great shape, much in contrast to the one on which the previous tie against Uzbekistan was played. It has got more grass cover on it and is playing true. But what remains to be seen is whether it can last three days.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Sports |