Going to be a tough next couple of years for us in Davis Cup: Zeeshan Ali

Express News Service

CHENNAI: By virtue of having one of the better sets of players among Asian nations, India’s Davis Cup contingent always knew they would be in with a fair chance of qualifying for the World Group/Finals. 

For every defeat against the likes of Spain or Czech Republic or Serbia — the sport’s big superpowers — they have had ties against China, Pakistan and Uzbekistan that’s allowed India to bounce back up from the playoffs.

The new rules mean India could potentially face the likes of Switzerland or Greece in next year’s Group I Playoffs. A loss there will relegate India to Group II, a place they haven’t inhabited since the early 1980s. 

This is why India coach Zeeshan Ali, who travelled with the side to Finland last week, foresees a ‘tough couple of years’ for India. India lost the Group I tie 3-1. Excerpts… 

On thoughts on the Finland tie (India lost 1-3) 

In terms of preparation, we did all the right things.

We went there early, had good practice sessions, players came in after playing tournaments so were in good nick and we received good support from the federation (AITA). 

Think it was a combination of two reasons. Otto Virtanen played like a guy ranked in the top-100 while Prajnesh (Gunneswaran) didn’t play like somebody ranked in the top-140. It wasn’t for the lack of trying or anything. Ramkumar (Ramanathan) played a great match. The pressure was too big on the second day. 

On whether our players struggle to raise their game, like players of other countries do  A player ranked outside the top 400 (Otto) is able to raise his game and perform on a particular day. 

Our players are not able to do that. We need to sit down and evaluate. It’s not through a lack of preparation. We cannot use those reasons. 

Back when Leander (Paes) or even we were playing, playing in the Davis Cup was a huge thing.

It was disappointing to see Sumit (Nagal) and Sasi Kumar (Mukund) playing Challengers during a Davis Cup week. That feeling is perhaps missing somewhere in the younger generation.

You cannot take the Davis Cup as any other individual event.   

On the way forward

The new rule change means the next couple of years is going to be pretty tough.

We need to start preparing for it now.

We need to put together a team comprising of younger players, need to pick top juniors and integrating them into the team as a fifth player or a hitting partner. Need to focus on the next generation. Invest in 16-17-18-year-olds. 

On a lack of talent in doubles pool 

Yes, absolutely (could have a scenario in the next few years where there are no doubles players in the top 100).

All the top players prefer to play the singles alone and there is nobody that’s there in the top 100 save for the likes of Rohan (Bopanna) and Divij (Sharan). It’s going to be a tough few years for us.  

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