Leander Paes, the only star in the depleted Indian Davis Cup team in the Asia-Oceania Group ‘I’ tie against Korea starting here on Friday, does not think that this is the toughest tie he has ever played.

Paes, who made his Davis Cup debut way back in 1990, had this fabulous inspirational tale which might encourage his inexperienced teammates to give their best against the Koreans.

Asked if he was facing the toughest tie of his career, Paes said, “Not exactly. I think the Davis Cup tie against France (in Frejus in 1993 on red clay) was the toughest. The conditions were against us, the crowd was against us.

“Ramesh Krishnan lost the (opening) singles and I was playing the crucial fourth rubber. I looked at myself in the mirror in the locker room and said ‘This is it’. It was a great French team, they were among the top-10 in the World and had top players like Henri Leconte, Rodolphe Gilbert, Arnaud Boetsch.

“I won the match against Boetsch to make it 2-2 and Ramesh won the deciding fifth rubber.”

“Nobody gave us a chance. But we believed strongly,” Paes said at the post-draw press conference here on Thursday.

Focus on the game

Paes, who considered Korea as one of the toughest opponents, said, “We have to really believe and concentrate on playing the game. That’s why I commend these boys sitting here for putting the country first.

“Now, everyone is asking questions, ‘Are we going to win? ‘Are we going to lose,’ ‘How many sets we are going to win?’… In my mind, these boys have already won this.”

“In 24 years of my Davis Cup career I have never thought about results… I always believed in giving my best for the country,” said Paes.

Paes, who will play the doubles match with Purav Raja, said the players had to be ready for long rallies on the slow and high bouncing hard court of the R.K. Khanna Stadium.

“In the doubles, the Koreans look really good. Purav is a fabulous doubles player. It is interesting that we are playing together for the first time. It will be a challenge how we gel on this surface.”

Misra happy

The captain of the side, S.P. Misra, was happy that the home side’s number one player V.M. Ranjeet would meet Korea’s second ranked player Cho Min Hyeok in the first rubber.

“If Ranjeet can pull off something, it becomes easy for our second player.”

Coach Zeeshan Ali said the team’s singles players, Ranjeet and Vijayant Malik, who had no experience of playing five-setters, had to manage themselves physically and mentally in case they needed to play such marathon matches.

“It is about when to relax and when to push yourself,” he said.

Korea captain Yoon Yong-II expected a close contest since the tie was being played in India.

“Our players and Indian players are similar, their rankings are also similar. There is not much difference,” he said.

Yoon said his team decided to field the experienced Lim Young-Kyu due to Paes’ presence in the Indian squad.

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