For a Davis Cup team that has thrived on its doubles specialists Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi for decades, one wondered how India would cope in the absence of the veteran duo, especially in the third rubber of the Asia/Oceania Group I tie against the Chinese Taipei last weekend.
Balancing act: Rohan Bopanna is happy to strike a balance between his responsibilities as player and mentor in the Indian Davis Cup team. Pic/AFP
But the new doubles pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Saketh Myneni did just fine, and in fact, almost cruised in their 6-0, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 win over Tsung-Hua Yang and Hsien-Yen Peng.
However, it was not as easy at it seemed, says the team's only doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna (33), who had to not only give his best, but also mentor his younger and inexperienced partner Myneni (26).
In an interview with MiD DAY, the Bangalorean speaks about carrying the doubles legacy forward from his legendary senior colleagues.
You returned to the Davis Cup fold after a year and India beat Chinese Taipei 5-0. Could you have asked for a better comeback?
It's been a one-year gap from the Davis Cup for me having missed out in 2013. I am very happy to have performed well at the Davis Cup this year. A lot has changed over the year and I am thankful that my hard work has helped my game adapt to the changes and yield results on court.
Going into the match, did you think a 5-0 win would be a possibility given this Indian team is relatively young and inexperienced?
Given the potential the team has, I was very hopeful of a positive result. But the 5-0 result is definitely an added bonus and a pleasant surprise. We gave it our best shot and were rewarded accordingly. The Indian team at this Davis Cup includes players like Yuki (Bhambri), Somdev (Devvarman) and Myneni, who have tremendous potential and most of them have been a part of the Indian Davis Cup team previously too. The hard work that these boys put in clearly reflects on their game and I am sure that they will continue to perform. What they don't have in terms of experience, they make up through their skills, and that is something that has worked well for us.
In the absence of Leander and Mahesh, you are the most experienced player in this team. How have you taken to the role of being a mentor to this younger lot?
I am very happy to have taken the baton over from the stalwarts of Indian tennis — Leander and Mahesh. And it's a matter of pride to be the most experienced player in this Davis Cup team. Though the responsibility does involve mentoring the players, it's also about making sure that all of us work together as a team and perform well on court.
Is it tough being the team's sole doubles specialist considering earlier India always had two doubles specialists in the side?
It's not at all tough. In fact, it's a matter of great pride for me to have taken over from the two of the greatest tennis giants that the country has ever known. Nothing is too tough or too easy when it comes to
performing at the highest level in international competitions, considering it's all about teamwork and translating our efforts on court.
Tell us about your Davis Cup captain Anand Amritraj's role. It was his first outing with this team. How has the interaction been?
It's been a great experience so far to be under the patronage of such an experienced tennis veteran. The team interaction with Anand has been great and we are all learning a lot from him. We hope that we get to learn a lot more and are looking forward to it as the tournament progresses.
Next up, it's South Korea in the second round this April and that won't be an easy outing. Are you looking forward to that one already?
We are all very excited and charged up for our next encounter against Korea. We are motivated and will be
looking forward to putting up our best performance on court. We hope we will be able to repeat our victorious performance against Chinese Taipei and win this one as well.