India's Davis Cup non-playing captain says Leander-less team should be able to beat Japan 4-1 or 3-2 in World Group play-off match starting today
India suffered a huge body blow before even the first forehand was struck in the crucial Davis Cup World Group play-off against Japan which begins at the Ariake Coliseum's decoturf courts today, after veteran doubles ace Leander Paes pulled out due to injury. Leander was forced to pull out of his US Open mixed doubles semi-final with Russian Elena Vesnina in New York last week due a back problem.
India's hope: Somdev Devvarman will play Yuichi Sugita of Japan in the opening singles today. Pic/Getty Images
India's non-playing captain Shiv Prakash Misra however is confident that the team will emerge victorious. "Our boys should prevail 4-1 or 3-2. I don't think Paes' absence will affect us. We have Rohan Bopanna who has been playing excellent doubles lately. I am sure Somdev can win both singles and Bopanna is quite capable of securing getting a point in singles too," said Misra.
Leander's father, Dr Vece Paes, the team physio, said his son's injury was quite bad. "It's very unfortunate, Lee made the decision only a couple of days back that he will be unable to play. He suffered a back and hip injury during the US Open. He felt it would be a big risk playing here if he is not fully fit. I am sure the other players will come to the fore,'' said Dr Paes.
Meanwhile India No 1 Somdev Devvarman was busy bashing forehands from the baseline. "I am taking it one match at a time, I am not thinking of Kei Nishikori (Japanese top seed & World No 55) right now. I play Go Soeda tomorrow and I feel quite good about my chances. I have a 2-1 record and that should hold me in good stead,'' said Somdev.
Rohan 'Bofors' Bopanna nicknamed for his huge serves, was seen belting down delivery after delivery. The India No 2 said: "I beat Nishikori in five sets in the Davis Cup (Delhi, 2008). I'm confident I can repeat that. I have been playing good tennis and reached the US Open men's doubles semis last week. What more can you ask for?"
Mahesh Bhupathi too is raring to go. "Look, Leander is a huge loss for us (Lee-Hesh boast of an impressive 25-2 win-loss record in Davis Cup). You can't do anything about it, can you? I feel with Rohan in the squad, we still have a big advantage in the doubles."