Rohan Bopanna will feature for India in the men's doubles event in Davis Cup
With a World Group place at stake, taking on Serbia is a big challenge even in a home Davis Cup tie and India must go with "maximum experience" against the world number two team, says doubles exponent Rohan Bopanna.
India's recent Davis Cup victories were orchestrated by the youth brigade, spearheaded by leading singles player Somdev Devvarman and Bopanna too has played a crucial role in winning the doubles rubbers.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, the old war horses who have an incredible 23-match winning streak in Davis Cup, have made themselves available for Davis Cup tie in September.
Bhupathi has not been able to get into Davis Cup team since 2011 and Paes, who has been going through personal problems, had excused himself from national duty this year before throwing his hat for selection again.
"Well we are up against the number two team in the world, even though it is a home tie, it's going to be our toughest challenge so far in Davis Cup at home, so I think we need to put our best team out there with maximum experience and whoever is playing the best during that period of time," Bopanna told PTI in an e-mail interview.
The Serbian team boasts of world number two and multiple Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, but their another formidable player Janko Tipsarevic is unlikely to play due to a recent heel surgery.
It will be interesting to see if the All India Tennis Association's selection panel persists with the young team or calls back either Paes or soon-to-retire Bhupathi to pair with Bopanna.
On rankings, Bhupathi won't make it to the team as he's placed below Bopanna and Paes.
It was on Somdev and Bopanna's suggestion that Bangalore was chosen as host city for the World Group play-off tie.
Since Serbian players are quite strong on slow courts, the players preferred medium-fast courts at KSLTA. Asked if this is the only reason for the choice of venue, Bopanna said there were other factors as well.
"The medium fast courts is one of the main reasons, the other crucial factor was the altitude. As all the players have trained in Bangalore at different point of time and are used to the conditions, we thought that it would give us the edge that is required in such a tie. We are also quite hopeful with the home support," Bopanna said.
"The fact that you are more accustomed to the surroundings, climate and playing surface is something that helps you in a big way. Yeah I was not part of the team in Indonesia and it was disappointing for sure, but now I am glad it's back in Bangalore and I will get an opportunity to play. Hopefully we will have a packed stadium cheering us on," he said.
Bopanna, who is likely to be India's mainstay in doubles in the years to come, and Saketh Myneni have played two doubles rubbers as a team, winning against Chinese Taipei and Korea.
Apart from that, the tall and big-serving Myneni also won a singles match against Tsung-Hua Yang in India's 5-0 whitewash of Taipei in February this year.
Asked about his views on Saketh's game, the Coorgi said, "Saketh has a good game and is shaping up well. He is currently playing the Challengers which is the right way forward for sure, matches in Challengers will give him the confidence and exposure which he needs at the moment."
Bopanna reunited with Pakistan's Aisam ul-haq Qureshi this season and the duo has endured mixed results. They won an ATP 500 event in Dubai and ended runners-up in ATP 250 tournaments in Sydney and Nice.
At Grand Slams, they could not go beyond the second and third round of the French Open and Australian Open respectively.
Evaluating the season so far, the Indian said, "I am happy with the way we have been playing. We startedÂ a bit slow but have picked up since then and are now looking to build on the momentum and continue to work hard."
Was it difficult to get that chemistry back with Aisam? "Aisam and me have grown as players in the last two years. We have gained a lot of experience playing with other partners and this has helped us understand our games better. Aisam and I have known each other for a long time and there is an off the field friendship which knits us closer together. We continued from where we left off."