Underdogs India face stern test

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Thrust into action courtesy a controversy, it will be a test of nerves and skills for the Indian rookies when they take on South Korea in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie, beginning here today.

With only Leander Paes as the top player in the side, V M Ranjeet, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja will make their Davis Cup debuts and they will have to play out of their skins to help India win the tie.

India would have started as outright favourites at home with a full-strength team against the current team fielded by Korea but now the hosts would enter the contest as underdogs.

There was a palpable change in the mood of the camp ever since Paes joined the team on Tuesday.

Must put up a decent fight

The expectations from Ranjeet and Malik, ranked 517 and 541 respectively, would be to at least put up a decent fight and they would also be eager to prove a point after being labelled as members of a third-string team. Paes has this history of producing results with even inexperienced players and the latest example was during London Olympics, where he and Vishnu Vardhan fought hard as a team. And now he has a good partner in Raja, who is now ranked 161 and won three Futures titles apart from ending runners-up in other Challenger events, last season. The winner of the tie will advance to the second round, slated for April 5 to 7. The head-to-head record is 5-3 in the favour of Korea and the last time two sides clashed was back in 2006 when the visitors had won in Korea 4-1.

Ranjeet faces Cho in opener

V. M. Ranjeet will open India's campaign against an unranked but talented Min Hyeok Cho of Korea in the Asia/Oceania Group I tie beginning today.

India No.2 Vijayant Malik will take on Korea No.1 Suk-Young Jeong in the second singles on day one. On day two, Leander Paes and Purav Raja will take on Lim and Ji Sung Nam. On the final day of the tie, Ranjeet will play Jeong while Malik will take on Cho in the reverse singles. Paes, the senior-most player involved in the tie, said gelling with Purav Raja will be a "true test" since they are playing for the first time together. "Their doubles players look good… Purav is a fabulous player with a lot of skill and game. We need to gel well, it's about combination and communication especially when the surface is slow and bouncing," Paes said.PTI



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