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Davis Cup: Leander and me must stick to our game plan, says Rohan Bopanna

Reputation and world ranking notwithstanding India's tennis ace feels the hosts can upset World No 1 Czech Republic in Davis Cup World Group play-off over the weekend in Delhi

Rohan Bopanna knows what it takes to win a tough Davis Cup encounter. His memorable win with Leander Paes against Serbian strongmen Ninad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac in the doubles rubber of the Davis Cup World Group play-off at the KSLTA Stadium in Bangalore around this time last year, proved just that.

India's Rohan Bopanna during a practice session at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association courts in New Delhi yesterday ahead of this weekend's Davis Cup World Group play-off against the Czech Republic
India's Rohan Bopanna during a practice session at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association courts in New Delhi yesterday ahead of this weekend's Davis Cup World Group play-off against the Czech Republic 

So when he says that India can beat World No 1 Czech Republic in Delhi over the weekend's Davis Cup World Group play-off, his conviction is convincing.

In an interview with mid-day, the 35-year-old Bangalorean spoke about his form, partner Paes and the potential this Indian team possesses to beat the three-time champions.

Excerpts:

Q. Indian tennis has been through a positive phase with you, Leander Paes and Sania Mirza doing well on the Tour. Keeping your form in mind and given home conditions, do you reckon we can beat the Czechs?
A. It is a great period for Indian tennis with all of us performing on the big stage. The Czechs are indeed tough opponents, and of course the favourites, but in the past, teams ranked lower have created big upsets in Davis Cup and so have we as Team India. So I think if we play really good tennis, we have a good chance to create
an upset.

Q. Do you feel the absence of World No 6 Tomas Berdych has improved India's chances of winning this clash?
A. It has given us a better chance with Berdych not being here, but still their players are in the top 100 and are far more experienced, so we have to really be on fire over the weekend to give us a chance to be in the World Group of 2016.

Q. You have played with Leander previously, but he was not around for your last Davis Cup tie. Is it tough to get back on court together and quickly whip up the magic?
A. It does take some time with different partners, but I think knowing Leander off court too pretty well helps us combine effectively on court. I think if we stick to our game plan and play good tennis we should win our (doubles) match.

Q. The Czechs may play Lukas Dlouhy and Radek Stepanek in the doubles rubber. To what extent does it help to have a partner like Leander, who has partnered both Lukas and Radek on the Tour?
A. It's the same for them as well as Leander — he knows his opponents as much as they know him. In these situations, you need to execute your game plan, and believe in your abilities to take you through. You can't worry about how your opponent is playing or how much he knows your game.

Q. Somehow, besides the Bopannas, the Mirzas and the Paes' there are too few new tennis names emerging in the country. What do you think is the reason for this?
A. There is no proper system in place. It is slowly growing, so it will take a few more years. I know Sania has started an academy, which is headed in the right direction, but we need a lot more. Sponsors too must help these young athletes, who have the talent, but no backing, unfortunately. Corporates must work on long-term associations with well-structured professional tennis academies to improve the sport in the country.

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