New Delhi: India face one of the most ferocious Davis Cup challenges at home as nothing less than their best would be required to challenge world number two Serbia, who will test skill and strength of the hosts even without world number one Novak Djokovic, here from Friday.
India last qualified for the elite 16-nation Group in 2010 but were knocked out in the first round by this very Serbian team the next year in Novi Sad, where the visitors suffered a 1-4 rout.
Now is the payback time but it is easier said than done. (We have a good chance against Serbia, says Leander Paes)
Despite the absence of Djokovic, Janko Tipsarevic and Victor Troicki, the visiting side poses a serious challenge to India, whose players are struggling on the circuit of late. (Djokovic's absence bolsters chances of an upset)
India's top player singles Somdev Devvarman has had forgettable last six months during which he struggled to cross the first and second rounds on the ATP circuit.
On the other side, Dusan Lajovic, who will spearhead Serbia's singles challenge, is in great shape having played top-tier tournaments with reasonable success if not great. The world number 61 has lost only four matches where he was competing against players, ranked lower than him.
Most of his defeats have come when he was contended by players ranked between 30 and 40.
Somdev, though is coming into the tie very match-sharp after reaching both singles and doubles finals of the Shanghai Challenger. He has spent considerable hours on court while competing and his ability to stretch his opponents is beyond doubt.
At Davis Cup, Somdev has always come up with his best and India would hope that he manages to give India one point on Friday. He had lost against Lajovic when they competed last year in Italy but that was on clay, a surface which suited more Lajovic than the Indian.
India must target Serbia's second singles player Filip Krajinovic, ranked 107. If Somdev and Yuki Bhambri can tame the 22-year-old, India have a golden opportunity to re-enter World Group.
Krajinovic is also a tough customer with two Challenger titles to show this season and a couple of good performances at the top level but he is one link, India could capitalize on.