New Delhi:With internal squabbles sorted out for now and Rohan Bopanna back to full fitness, India will bank on home advantage and their superiority on grass when they take on Japan in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone group second round tie here on Friday.
Bopanna, who had been battling a knee inflammation that forced him to skip practice yesterday, declared himself fit for the tie in the draw ceremony held on Thursday.
The 27-year-old, the nominated number two of the team after Prakash Amritraj, will open the campaign for the hosts against 18-year-old Kei Nishikori.
Though Bopanna trails his younger Japanese opponent by more than 200 rungs in the ranking ladder, the lanky Indian said his experience, coupled with home advantage, would be enough to see him through.
"My knee is fine now and I am absolutely ready for the tie. I always like starting first up and I am looking forward to give Prakash a 1-0 advantage to build on," Bopanna said after the draw.
The Japanese teen may be short of experience but his confidence is certainly sky high after becoming the first from his country in 16 years to win an ATP title at the Delray Beach tournament in United States in February.
"I am a little nervous but I am glad that I am playing first and don't have to wait. I have seen Rohan in the US and know his game well," Nishikori quipped.
In the second singles tomorrow, world number 261 Amritraj will be up against Go Soeda, ranked 156th.
The US-based Amritraj said he was comfortable playing the second singles despite the temperatures that would soar during the day.
"I am not really bothered whether I play first singles or second. I am absolutely ready for the tie and can't wait for tomorrow," Amritraj said.
Skipper Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will have a rare reunion to take on Satoshi Iwabuchi and Takao Suzuki in the doubles match as the veterans look to guide the team to the World Group playoff.
Paes, trying to present a unified house after the controversies of the past two months triggered by a players' revolt, said he was happy with the draw and the team was focussed on the task at hand.
"It has worked out well for us. Now it's about getting down to playing good tennis. At this moment when the draw was announced, the tie has already started for us," he said.
A confident Paes also said that he did not see the possibility of a fifth match like it happened in the tie against Uzbekistan in February.
"I don't have a feeling that it will go down to the fifth match. But even if it goes down to that we are ready for it," he said.
Bhupathi, though, had a word of caution for the team.
"The Japanese are better than us on paper but it's no secret that our guys are very good on grass," he said.
Japanese skipper Eiji Takeuchi, meanwhile, hinted that a more experienced Suzuki could be called in for the fifth tie if the need arises.
"We have come here for winning and would do our best to achieve that. The weather is going to be a problem but we will manage. Whether Suzuki comes in will depend on how we do on the first two days," he said.
"The surface is perfect and very fair for the two teams," he added, referring to the grass courts at DLTA.