India ready for Spain challenge: Paes

New Delhi, Sep 13 (IANS) India on Tuesday put up a brave face ahead of their Davis Cup World Group Play-off against mighty Spain with veteran Leander Paes asserting the hosts are unfazed by the magnitude of the challenge confronting them and are determined to battle it out in their own backyard.

Spain have brought over a star-studded squad which includes 14-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, World No.13 David Ferrer and the the doubles duo of Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez.

The hosts, on the other hand, have a comparatively insipid squad spearheaded by veteran star Leander Paes.

India will field Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan in the singles and the relatively inexperienced duo are expected to face an uphill battle against Nadal and Ferrer.

To make matters worse, the Indian doubles combination, traditionally the strong point of the hosts, has been weakened by the withdrawal of Rohan Bopanna due to injury.

As a result, Paes is expected to take on the might of the Spanish along with the relatively inexperienced Myneni.

“It will be a tough tie, but it is important for us to put our best foot forward. It is important to give a tough fight, to keep learning and keep improving ourselves,” Paes told reporters ahead of India’s practice session here on Tuesday.

“The two boys in singles have done very well to keep ourselves in the World Group Play-offs.”

India’s non-playing captain Anand Amritraj informed that the hosts will be banking on their traditional strong point in the doubles while hoping to put up a spirited fight in the singles.

“Doubles has always been our strength. If Leander is playing, even if Bopanna is unavailable, he is dangerous with any of the other three.”

“Lopez and Lopez are a great team but on a court like this we have a chance. In doubles, our chances are closer to 50-50 than what we have in the singles. In think that we can beat them in the doubles, no question about that,” Amritraj said.

Myneni echoed Paes and Amritraj’s sentiments, asserting that he is determined to produce his best form in this tie.

“I think it will be a battle for me playing on Friday. I want to challenge them and push them as much as I can and let me see how it goes in the first day. A lot depends on the first day and then lets see how the second day goes for us,” Myneni said.

“I have to see how willing my body and my mind are for the challenge. My mind is wiling, let us see how my body responds,” he added.

Myneni, who suffered cramps and had had to battle through the pain during a Davis Cup clash against South Korea in Chandigarh recently, said that he is in much better shape physically for this tie.

“I was playing in the US recently. I have been playing 4-5 matches over a short period over there, so I think I am doing okay. The conditions were humid and difficult.

“I think we have similar conditions although it is much more hotter here. The heat has never been a problem for me although the humidity will be tough. But it a challenge and I am determined to fight through it. I am ready to give my best and this challenge will bring out the best from me,” he said.

Leander also chose to brush off the absence of Bopanna, asserting that the other members of the Indian squad are all equally capable of replacing him.

“I am really eager to see who my doubles partner is. I am looking forward to playing with Saketh. He is a natural and has strong returns. It will be nice to be on the court with him. We enjoy partnering each other and it will be nice for the communication as well,” he said.

“That being said, if I get a chance to play with Sumit (Nangal), it will also be good. He has won the junior Wimbledon title and guiding him through his first Davis Cup tie will be a big responsibility,” he added.

Amritraj refused to divulge Paes’ partner for the doubles tie, informing that he will take a call once the first round of singles matches are over.

“I am waiting to see how the first round of singles goes. Depending on how long and tough the singles matches are for Saketh and Ramkumar, we will decide at the end of the first day,” he said.

–IANS

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