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With much promise

KALYAN ASHOK
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TENNIS After a good 28 years Davis Cup was played in Bangalore, with great enthusiasm

The star of the courtSomdev DevvarmanPhoto: K. Gopinathan
The star of the courtSomdev DevvarmanPhoto: K. Gopinathan

The drum and dholak beats rose to a crescendo, crowd kept screaming, “India, India” and the Indian team members, ran around the court in a victory lap, waving the tricolour as the floodlights shone brightly on them. Yes, it was closing scenes of the Davis Cup tie at Bangalore’s KSLTA Stadium last Sunday. One might have thought that India had actually won the Davis Cup, but in reality they saved their spot in Group I of the Asia Oceania Zone in the tournament after 5-0 demolition of a hapless Indonesia. .

The KSLTA Stadium as a Davis Cup venue after 28 years, when India played Sweden (1985), presented a different look. The clash of 2013, in the digital age, saw hordes of media personnel, as the tie unfolded on newly re-surfaced synthetic hard court, a new generation of young and brash tennis fans were in stands and chic ladies, dressed to kill added colour.Most flocked to watch Somdev Devvarman, the poster boy of Indian tennis and the Io Icon, Leander Paes in action and they had their money’s worth. One wished Bangalore boys, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, were in the team. But it was unlikely, given their rift with the AITA. As a contest, it was a whitewash. Smarting under the defeat of a depleted team against South Korea in the last outing, Indians made sure they don’t give anything away. Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri with their classy display, won both their singles while, Paes, guiding his young partner, Sanam Singh, sealed the doubles tie for India. The Indians won all their matches in straight sets.

For veteran Paes, the tie was a special occasion as it was his 50th Davis Cup tie and a standing ovation greeted him when he stepped on to the court for his doubles match. There was a massive turn out on the doubles day, where every inch of space was occupied out at the stadium. Paes enjoyed every moment of it, and soaked in the adulation and atmosphere and a perfect PR guy that his, Paes strived to keep everyone happy, including media, with the right sound bytes.

At every post media briefing, the Indians harped on their camaraderie and team wok, which was all there to see and it was indeed good break from the recent past, when squabbles marked the Indian camp. Paes called the present lot as future of Indian tennis who would carry the country forward and dubbed them as “rough diamonds”. The next step for India is to qualify for the world group next season and then aim for the final rounds. In an interesting side event, during the tie, ITF’s Davis Cup ‘commitment awards’ were presented to the stalwarts of bygone era, father and son duo Ramanathan Krishnan and Ramesh Krishnan, besides Anand Amritraj and and Mahesh Bhupathi. Leander Paes was honoured for his 50th Davis Cup appearance, and S.P. Misra, who was bowing out as the non-playing captain after a six year stint, was also felicitated.

On the side lines of Davis Cup, the newly formed Indian Tennis Players Association (ITPA) had its first formal meeting and elected its office bearers. The ITPA made it clear that the association would work for the welfare of the players and protect their interest and they were not looking for confrontation with AITA.

Leander Paes, who was considered the odd man out, given his allegedly pro-establishment views, surprisingly joined the ITPA and was elected as vice president. It seemed a ‘master stroke’ as it took sails out of his critics. His presence, lends weight and balance to ITPA. But the players need to guard is to stay the course and focus on the main objectives and should not allow it to be hijacked by any one with a hidden agenda.

The KSLTA’s Davis Cup organising committee can pat it’s back for a job well done and one only hopes that Bangloreans need not wait too long again for another tie. “We should have it more often here, great arrangements”, praised Anil Khanna, president of the AITA and players too loved it.

“Good conditions, energetic atmosphere, would love to come back and play again here,” said Somdev.

KALYAN ASHOK

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