Leander Paes trains ahead of the Davis Cup tie yesterday. Pic/AFP
Pune: It's been an agonising 43-year wait for the City Of Peshwas to host a Davis Cup tennis tie. Today, India face New Zealand at the Balewadi tennis stadium in an Asia Oceania Group 1 first round.
India could not have asked for a more favourable draw. India No. 2 Yuki Bhambri (World No. 368) is pitted against Kiwi No. 1 Finn Tearney (World No. 414), while India No. 1 Ramkumar Ramanathan (World No. 276) faces Jose Statham (World No. 417). “It's the best possible draw we could ask for. I hoped Yuki would play the opener and I am confident we can win both singles on Day 1. Our boys have been working hard on the practice courts here,'' said India captain Anand Amritraj.
Amritraj is also confident with the doubles pairing of Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan. “They have played before and with Lee's experience we should win the doubles.''
There will be added pressure on India's spearhead. He is level with Italian Nicola Pietrengeli's 42 doubles win mark. A victory on Saturday will make him the most successful doubles player in Davis Cup history.
“I will not be thinking about the record. I will play my best tennis to win the doubles rubber,'' said Paes.
“I am confident of beginning with a victory. Have been playing good tennis recently,'' noted Yuki Bhambri. Ramkumar feels a Yuki win in the opening singles will give him a boost. “I am sure that I can make it 2-0 for India.”
Overall India has a far superior head-to-head record leading 5-3. However, India struggled to beat New Zealand 3-2 when the two last met in Christchurch in 2015. New Zealand's 3 wins came in 1975,1976 and 1978. They had the likes of Onny Parun and Chris Lewis. India's current captain Anand Amritraj, his brother Vijay and Sashi Menon were involved in epic encounters with Parun and Co.