Mumbai: Rohan Bopanna on Friday returned to the country's Davis Cup squad after a two-year gap as AITA named a six-member team for the Asia/Oceania Group I contest against Chinese Taipei, starting January 31 in Indore. Mahesh Bhupathi, who did not feature in the squad for the last three years has not been selected.
Since Leander Paes has opted out of the national duty in 2014 due to family reasons and Bhupathi ignored once again, Bopanna is the sole doubles specialist in the team.
AITA handed Davis Cup debut to Saketh Myneni, who will play doubles with Bopanna, while Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri will lead India's challenge in singles.
Myneni, ranked 318th, was chosen ahead of Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (314), who is the third-highest ranked player in singles after Somdev (93) and Yuki (172).
Myeneni was rewarded for his superior singles record against Jeevan and his stellar performance at the Chennai Open, where he along with his Russian partner Karen Khachanov shocked the top-seeded pair of Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi en route to the semifinals.
The selection panel, led by Anil Dhupar, named Jeevan and Sanam Singh as reserve players while the fast-rising Ramkumar Ramanathan, who shocked Somdev at Chennai Open, is a special invitee to the squad.
The panel dropped Vijayant Malik and N Sriram Balaji from the reserves list. Sanam was in the playing squad in the last tie against Indonesia in Bangalore.
Asked about Myeneni's selection ahead of Jeevan, Dhupar told PTI, "We were looking for a player who could play singles as well as doubles. And there's not much difference in the rankings of the two. Saketh is doing well and he has beaten Jeevan in all five meetings. He is also a better player in doubles."
India's Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali said," It was the best combination. We discussed about Mahesh Bhupathi but he is semi-retired and Rohan is a better-ranked player."
However, Zeeshan said it was not right to say that, "Bhupathi has played his last tie for India."
Bopanna's last Davis Cup appearance was in April, 2012 against Uzbekistan in an away tie.
Bopanna and Bhupathi were banned by AITA because of disciplinary issues after the London Olympics as the two players had forced the national body to send them to the marquee event as a team.
India had hosted New Zealand in September 2012 but both of them were ignored for that tie and later continued to be on the sidelines when the country hosted Korea and Indonesia last year.
Bhupathi and Bopanna had approached Karnataka High Court against the ban, which was stayed on the appeal.
Squad: Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri, Rohan Bopanna and Saketh Myneni.
Reserves: Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Sanam Singh
Special Invitee: Ramkumar Ramanathan.
Story first published on: Saturday, 11 January 2014 18:17 IST