India look to maintain unbeaten record

Bangalore, April 4 (IANS) India appeared certain to maintain their unbeaten run against Indonesia ahead of the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I relegation play-off tie commencing here Friday by chalking up their sixth straight win.

The optimism stems from what was described as a “favourable draw” that has India No.1 Somdev Devvarman playing Indonesian Visnu Adi Nugroho in the first singles followed by Yuki Bhambri vs Christopher Rungkat in the second singles.

India named veteran Leander Paes, set to play his 50th Davis Cup tie, to partner Sanam Singh in Saturday’s doubles against the Indonesian pair of David Agung Susanto and Elbert Sie. The reverse singles Sunday pit Devvarman against Rungtak while Bhambri faces Nugroho.

The draw ceremony was held here Thursday with film star Shatrughan Sinha presiding and ITF referee David Smith from New Zealand conducting the proceedings.

“It is a good draw and just what we wanted with Somdev playing first singles. Hopefully, he will give India a 1-0 lead and then Yuki playing under lights in the second singles,” said India captain Shiv Prakash Misra, who will step down after the tie.

Indonesia captain Hendri Susilo Pramono too expressed satisfaction at the draw. “We are happy with the draw and I expect it to be 1-1 at the end of Friday.”

On the doubles combination, Pramono said: “The combination we have fielded is the best that we have but it will be tough for us with Leander partnering Sanam. We will give our best.”

If the ATP rankings are anything to go by, then anything less than a 5-0 verdict for India would be a huge surprise even granting that Devvarman and Bhambri will be playing in the Cup after a break as the duo missed the previous Cup tie against South Korea in New Delhi, where the visitors won 4-1.

The 28-year-old Devvarman, ranked 208, is expected to waltz through his match with Nugroho (1774).

“I don’t know him but I will not take anything for granted. I am going out there, be a professional and try and get a point for India,” said Devvarman, who was ranked a career-high of 62 in July 2011 before a series of injuries followed by a shoulder surgery kept him out of competition.

Nugroho said: “It will be a good experience for me. I know I am the underdog but I have nothing to lose. This will be my third Davis Cup and I am really looking forward to the match.”

Reflecting on his tie with Bhambri, the Indonesia No.1 Rungkat, ranked 251 to the 20-year-old Indian’s 279, said: “I have always had close matches with Yuki since our junior days and I am sure it will be a good match.”

Bhambri has never lost to Rungkat and in the recent times has won twice on the senior tour. “We will be playing under lights and hopefully I will be able to make it 2-0. We have played each other a lot of times,” said Bhambri.

As for the doubles Saturday, India would again start overwhelming favourites given the rich experience of Paes and the exuberance of Sanam.

“It is always great playing for your country and with the younger generation. I think, Sanam is my 97th men’s doubles partner but I am not sure. It felt good when I practiced with him earlier this week,” said Paes, who turns 40 in June.

Sanam, 25, said: “It is a great honour to partner Leander. I grew up watching him play and he was an inspiration to me.”

The first singles is slated for a 3 p.m. start Friday with the second tie to be played under lights to attract big crowds.

First singles (Friday): Somdev Devvarman (IND) vs Visnu Adi Nugroho (INA).

Second singles: Yuki Bhambri (IND) vs Christopher Rungkat (INA)

Doubles (Saturday): Leander Pades/Sanam Singh (IND) vs David Agung Susanto/Elbert Sie (INA).

Reverse singles (Sunday): Devvarman vs Rungkat and Bhambri vs Nugroho.

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