India to play Japan in Davis Cup World Group play-off

July 13th, 2011 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Davis Cup New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) India have been drawn to play an away tie against Japan in the Davis Cup World Group play-off Sep 16.

India had lost to World Champions Serbia 1-4 in the World Group first round tie in March. Japan advanced to the World Group play-offs, beating Uzbekistan 4-1 in the Group I Asia/Oceania semifinals.

Japan have failed three times to break into the World Group since 1998, against Russia, Chile in 2004 and Romania in 2007.

India last played Japan in 2008 at home in an Asia-Oceania semifinal here and beat them 3-2. India had taken an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie in the first two days before Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi decided to test themselves in singles on the last day, having wrapped up the encounter with a victory in the doubles match against Satoshi Iwabuchi and Takao Suzuki at the DLTA Complex here.

Overall, India are way ahead of Japan on head-to-head count with 18 victories against only three losses.

India’s last visit to Japan in 2004 ended in a 2-3 loss, the first time they were beaten by Japan since 1930.

Japan’s top singles player Kei Nishikori is ranked 50. The 21-year-old Nishikori has a good Davis Cup record of 5-1 and will compete in a World Group play-off for the first time in his career.

Other two players Tatsuma Ito and Go Soeda are ranked 110 and 135 on the singles charts.

India’s best ranked singles player is Somdev Devvarman at 65. Somdev, who has an overall win-loss record of 6-8, scored India’s only victory in the tie against Serbia, upsetting Janko Tipsarvic.

Both Nishikori and Somdev love to play on hard courts, but have never faced each other before.

Rohan Bopanna is way down in the singles ranking at 555, though he has given a good account of himself as a singles player against higher ranked players in the last two ties.

The 31-year-old from Coorg defeated Ricardo Mello of Brazil in the World Group play-off last year. He lost to Viktor Troicki of Serbia and Thomaz Belluci of Brazil in five-set thrillers.

India will have an advantage in the doubles with the presence of two veterans Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, who are back playing together on the international circuit since the Australian Open in January. Paes and Bhupathi missed out in the last tie against Serbia in which Somdev and Bopanna combined to give a good fight to Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic.

Japan do not have a stable doubles combination. Takao Suzuki and Hiroki Kondo lost against the Philippines and Nishikori and Soeda combined to win against Uzbekistan in their last two ties.

The winning nations in the World Group play-offs qualify for the 2012 World Group, while the losing nations will compete in their respective Zonal Group I competitions.

Following is the draw held at the International Tennis Federation’s headquarters in London:
Romania v Czech Republic, Russia v Brazil, Israel v Canada, South Africa v Croatia,
Chile v Italy, Japan v India, Belgium v Austria, Australia v Switzerland.

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