New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) Indias non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Tuesday selected four singles players in the squad for the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan, dropping veteran Leander Paes and his doubles partner Rohan Bopanna to the reserves.
Paes is on the cusp of becoming the tournament’s most successful doubles player and the Uzbekistan match may well be the last chance for him to claim the all-time record on home turf after losing the doubles against New Zealand with Vishnu Vardhan.
Paes is currently tied with Italy’s Nicola Pietrangeli on 42 wins.
Ramkumar Ramanathan, ranked 269th, Yuki Bhambri (307), Prajnesh Gunneswaran (325) and N. Sriram Balaji (350) were named in the squad for the April 7 to 9 tie in Bengaluru.
Bhupathi’s decision to select four singles players and not include a doubles specialist in the squad is something of a gamble as doubles has always been India’s strength.
Bhupathi, together with Paes, formed a formidable force in the Davis Cup and the ATP World Tour in the late 1990s.
Bhupathi had earlier voiced his preference for naming only singles players in the squad. However, the tournament rules give him the option of changing two members before the commencement of the tie.
AITA said the selection committee, in consultation with the captain, chose the team.
Vishnu Vardhan has been named as the seventh member for practice.
Bhupathi said performance would determine the final team selection.
“I have been tracking them. I need to reward results,” Bhupathi said but left the option open of bringing in Paes or Bopanna should the need arise.
Bopanna and Paes have fared disappointingly in the ATP doubles circuit after the announcement of the six-member squad, losing in the opening round of the Indian Wells Masters event and the Challenger event in Irving, United States.
Bhambri has reached two semi-finals (Zhuhai and Shenzen) and won an ITF Futures in Chandigarh after the tie against New Zealand in Pune in February.
Ramanathan has struggled this season and managed just a win in the main draw of a Challenger event after the Pune tie.
Balaji, meanwhile, has been consistent, making three singles finals. He won a title (Jorhat) and ended runner-up to Bhambri (Chandigarh) and Prajnesh (Bhilai) recently. He also won three doubles Futures titles.
Gunneswaran has not played much but won the Bhilai Futures title also losing in the first qualifying round of the ATP 500 Dubai Championships and the final qualifying round of the Kyoto Challenger.