Tennis

Bopanna to take on Bellucci in opener

Bopanna is ranked 452 places below Bellucci in the ATP singles ranking but the Indian would look to covert his good doubles form in the singles as well. File Photo: R. Ragu

Bopanna is ranked 452 places below Bellucci in the ATP singles ranking but the Indian would look to covert his good doubles form in the singles as well. File Photo: R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

After almost a week of idle theorising, its time for some tennis action at the SDAT Stadium on Friday when Thomaz Bellucci takes on Rohan Bopanna in the first singles match of the Davis Cup World Group play-off against Brazil.

The order of play materialised on Thursday morning when M. Karunanidhi, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, pulled out a small chit with Bellucci's name on it, preventing Somdev Devvarman from being the opening act. Devvarman's clash with Ricardo Mello, hence, will follow Bopanna's match, while Saturday will be devoted to the doubles events. The reverse singles will be played on Sunday.

A win here will help India retain its slot in the elite World Group, initiating its journey into the upper stratum of team competition, possibly all the way to the final, where the country's last appearance was a 0-5 capitulation to Sweden in 1987.

Brazil has lost at this stage for the last four years and will be looking to reverse the trend.

The two previous occasions of India and Brazil meeting up are too far gone in the past to be of relevance.

India beat the South American nation 3-2 in Calcutta in 1966, while in 1991, Brazil got its own back with a 4-1 win in Sao Paolo.

Unacceptable scenario

A loss in Chennai, an unacceptable scenario on home turf (what with the constant drone of spirit, emotions, heart and other such abstractions being propounded as the foolproof antidote for higher-ranked opponents), will dump India right back into the zonal competition. A first look at the match-ups paints Brazil as a heavy favourite.

Bopanna, ranked no. 479, will need more than just a cannonball serve to get past the World no. 27, Thomaz Bellucci, and will hope for the same intangibles to come into play to upset a player who has been knocking at the door of the top-20 all year.

Coming off a U.S. Open doubles final, it remains to be seen how much of a boost that result will give to Bopanna's singles aspirations against Bellucci and Mello (World no.75).

Devvarman's insistence on the surface and playing in the heat appears to have backfired. Not only has the weather been uncharacteristically mild, the surface too, as Brazil's non-playing captain Joao Zwetsch confirmed, is not very fast, allowing for a more neutral platform, if ever the platform was tilted in India's favour.

“Somdev and I are both baseliners. It promises to be a tough, long match. Whoever gets ahead first will have the upper hand,” said Mello. “The weather will not be a problem for us as long as we hydrate ourselves properly the previous night,” believed Devvarman.

The World no. 113, who is 4-5 in Davis Cup matches, will be required to recreate his 2009 form in the Chennai Open — when he went all the way to the final — to challenge, first, Mello, and then decide upon a plan of action, as befits the situation, for Bellucci.

Inspiration and motivation

As a source of inspiration, Devvarman can look to his marathon tie-clinching win over R. de Voest of South Africa in September 2009 in the World Group play-off. The singles dispensed with, Saturday promises to be India's day as Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, on a 22-match winning streak at the Davis Cup, take on Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares.

Indian optimists should be cautioned by the fact that Melo and Soares, no bunnies in the format, have to their credit a win over the Bryan brothers — Mike and Bob — in the 2010 French Open.

“We know Paes and Bhupathi are a world class doubles team. But we are prepared for them. We had a problem adjusting to the time difference, but everything's been fine since Tuesday and we're looking forward to some action,” said Zwetsch.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 6:51:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/Bopanna-to-take-on-Bellucci-in-opener/article15951984.ece

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