Seasoned veteran Leander Paes, is on the cusp of a historic world record in perhaps what is to be his last appearance in the Davis Cup, as team India clashes with relatively weaker New Zealand in the Asia/Oceania Group I tie to be held from tomorrow in Pune.
The 18-time Grand Slam champion, who is all set to take part in his 55th Davis Cup tie, is tied with Italy’s Nicola Pietrangeli on 42 doubles wins. A win on Saturday will make him the most successful doubles player ever in Davis Cup history, quite a feat for the 43 year old.
There has been some added drama though behind the scenes in choosing a suitable partner for Paes. Latest developments confirm that his London Olympics doubles partner Vishnu Vardhan will be teaming up along side him after original choice Saketh Myneni failed to recover from a foot injury sustained during last month’s Chennai Open. Paes and national hard court champion, Vardhan will clash with the Kiwi pair of Artem Sitak and Michael Venus on day two of the tie.
Vardhan was given a call-up after three people spoke to India’s top doubles player Rohan Bopanna, team captain Anand Amritraj said at the media conference after the draw. “Three people spoke to him. I did not. I don’t know exactly what happened,” said Amritraj.
Paes when asked about the subject, said he was one of the first people to suggest calling up Bopanna and wanted to contact him personally but was instructed not to. He refused to divulge who prevented him from doing so. Bopanna did have a public spat with Leander Paes before and caused quite a stir. However dumping him for this tie was a surprising decision none the less.
India looks to have the edge over the Kiwis attributing to its higher rankings and the advantage of playing at home, India has a 5-3 win-loss record, with all the defeats coming in the 1970s. India has not lost to New Zealand since 1978 when the Kiwis, then spearheaded by Onny Parun, had beaten it 4-1 in New Delhi in the Eastern Zone semi final.
It is clear that all is not well in Indian tennis and things will continue to remain the same until the trio of team management, AITA and selectors continue to give preference to household names over teams with better combinations.
(With inputs from PTI and Hindustan Times)