Devvarman, Sanam to play singles; Bhambri out with injury
Its second best singles player is missing from the line-up but an upbeat India would fancy its chances against South Korea when the two teams clash here for a Davis Cup World Group play-off berth from Friday.
India is without Yuki Bhambri, who was forced out of the tie due to a foot injury but the team has enough fire power to handle the home challenge.
India would hope that Somdev Devvarman shrugs off his indifferent form and gives the country its first point when he opens the campaign against Chung Hyeon, ranked 377.
Ranked 88th, Devvarman is the highest-ranked singles player in the tie but he is struggling since winning the Delhi Open in February.
He has lost four of the five matches played and the shock win over injured world No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro is the only result he has savoured in the last two months.
However, Davis Cup has always been a tournament where Devvarman has excelled and the nation vs nation event has always got the best out of him.
Indeed, it was after the last tie against Taipei in Indore, that he went on a brilliant spree in the back-to-back Challengers that culminated with the Delhi Open title.
Devvarman’s victory is important in the context that India is without Yuki and in his place captain Anand Amritraj has fielded Sanam Singh (371) ahead of higher-ranked Saketh Myneni (256) for the second singles. Myneni made an impressive debut against Taipei, winning the singles and doubles matches but the captain has gone for experience.
Sanam will clash with Korea’s No. 1 player Lim Yong-Kyu, ranked 300th, in the second singles. The diminutive Sanam is coming into the tie after making the finals of two consecutive ITF Futures tournaments in India.
In the doubles, the experienced Rohan Bopanna will yet again combine with Myneni to take on the home combination of Lee Hyung-Taik and Sang-Woo Noh. The big serving Indian pair will be outright favourites to win the third rubber.
India has never beaten Korea in an away tie and also trails 3-6 in the head-to-head record. But India is expected to improve on that count as it has a better line-up than the host.
The last time the two teams played was in 2013 when the Koreans beat India 4-1 in New Delhi in the absence of top players, who boycotted the tie.
India is coming into this tie after having blanked Taipei 5-0 while the host had got a bye in the first round as one of the top seeds and is seeking a World Group play-off berth for the first time since 2008.
Anand defends choice
Captain Anand Amritraj defended his choice of Sanam Singh for the second singles, saying he was best suited for the medium-slow surface.
“I decided on Sanam for the second singles because, though there is not much to choose between him and Saketh, the court here is medium-slow which would suit Sanam better,” Amritraj told PTI after the draw ceremony.
“More importantly, I need Saketh fresh for the doubles, which could be crucial,” he added. Korea is a very tough team, but based on rankings, we are the favourites. We just have to prove it this weekend,” the 60-year-old said on his second assignment with the team.
Amritraj said surface is to the liking of his players.
“The court is medium-slow as I mentioned and suits all our players just fine.”
The captain also said that Yuki’s absence would not make much of a difference to the outcome of the tie.
“I would have loved to have had Yuki but he is injured. The next choice for me was Sanam. Hopefully it won’t make a difference in the final result,” he said.