Sports

Mahesh Bhupathi leaves door open for Leander Paes?

CHENNAI: Singles has been a long-term worry for India in Davis Cup while doubles used to be their area of strength. But now, young singles players Ramkumar Ramanathan and Yuki Bhambri are staying competitive while doubles seems to be going downhill. India’s loss against Canada was a case in point, when Ram won his singles and Bhambri put up a brave fight against teen sensation Denis Shapovalov, but the doubles team of Rohan Bopanna and Purav Raja failed to put up a fight.
“I don’t think it is the right time to discuss what-ifs. But it is really disappointing because we had put in so much of effort. We are somehow unable to get our combination right for doubles in recent times,” India’s non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi told TOI from Edmonton after the team lost 2-3. Mahesh brought in Purav Raja, who had reached the second round of Wimbledon this year, in place of Saketh Myneni to partner French Open champion Bopanna. But it turned out to be a disappointment. Raja was good at the nets with his deft volleys but limitations in serve and baseline play hurt India. Bopanna’s big-serving game was also off the mark as he served five double faults in the team’s total of 12.
“No matter what we try we have not been able to strike the correct combination. Saketh (Myneni) wasn’t fit to partner Bopanna and Purav was brought in but that isn’t an excuse. We need to address this issue soon if we want to come close to the World Group again,” Bhupathi said. Does that mean Leander Paes, who was booted out of the Indian team after Bhupathi took over, will get another chance? “Paes was dropped because Bopanna had a better ranking and we wanted someone who could play both singles and doubles to partner him. It wasn’t such a political issue as it was made out to be. Paes just needs to improve his rankings. We don’t play another Davis Cup tie till next year so a lot can happen by then,” Bhupathi kept it open.
The former doubles ace, though, was particularly impressed with the performances of Bhambri and Ram. “I am really proud of the way they played. Ram and Yuki showed the hunger and the fighting spirit. We knew Canada was a tough nut to crack but to be honest I believed we could win the tie because of the way both Yuki and Ram played. Ram is doing exceptionally well and Yuki needs to work on staying healthy. If they can continue to work hard, both can break into top-100 soon,” said Bhupathi.

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