India’s team will be headlined by the likes of Sumit Nagal and Leander Paes.
The long-awaited Davis Cup clash between India and Pakistan is almost upon us, with the two neighbouring nations facing each other in the Kazakhstan capital Nur-Sultan.
India’s tennis stars start off as firm favourites in their clash against Pakistan, with the likes of Leander Paes and Sumit Nagal bolstering their squad, while their opponents will be without their top-ranked player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi who pulled out from the competition a couple of weeks back.
22-year-old Sumit Nagal has become the heartthrob of Indian tennis since he gave Swiss maestro Roger Federer a run for his money at the US Open 2019.
He followed that praiseworthy showing at Flushing Meadows by winning the Buenos Aires Challenger title, defeating Facundo Bagnis 6-4, 6-2 in the final.
The Indian tennis player has performed admirably in other competitions as well in recent times, reaching the semifinals of the Campinas Challenger as well as the Aspria Tennis Cup of Italy. Nagal is currently ranked 131st in the world and will be one of India’s brightest tennis prospects heading into the Davis Cup tie against Pakistan.
Nagal has played twice before for his country, losing both rubbers he played in. So will it be third time lucky for him in Nur-Sultan?
India’s 18-time Grand Slam winner Leander Paes revealed a few weeks back that he wishes to participate in his record eighth Olympic Games come Tokyo 2020. The path for that Olympic dream could be ignited through the Davis Cup clash against Pakistan where the 46-year-old will be in action in the men’s doubles category, partnering up with fellow Indian tennis player Saketh Myneni.
“There were a lot of rumblings going on behind the scenes in the Indian tennis fraternity that Leander has played his last Davis Cup tie. But for me, playing for my country has been the greatest honour. Our focus is to make ourselves ready to play for the country, and winning,” said Paes, in an interview to Scroll.in, speaking on his comeback to the Indian tennis team after missing out the Davis Cup games against Italy.
Apart from Paes and Nagal, India’s roster will be completed by Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Mynani and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan.
Top doubles player Rohan Bopanna was forced to pull out with a shoulder injury.
The Pakistani tennis team will start off this Davis Cup tie as underdogs, with none of their athletes in the top 1000 rankings. They would be further weakened with their veteran players Qureshi and Aqeel Khan pulling out of the competition.
The contest at the National Tennis Center will be the first taste of Davis Cup action for 17-year old Muhammad Shoaib.
Shoaib will play the first rubber against Ramkumar Ramanathan, before Huzaifa Abdul Rehman takes on India's Sumit Nagal on the opening day.
Their third team member is Yousaf Khalil, ranked a lowly 1680th in the world.
Apart from the opposition, a major challenge for India’s tennis players will be adjusting to the chilly climate of Kazakhstan.
Although the matches will be played indoors, temperatures which are expected to be as low as -20 °C will still come as quite a shock to the Indian team.
“The biggest issue is the weather, getting acclimatised to these conditions is never easy, especially in terms of injuries. The warm-ups and cooldowns will be important,” Team Coach Zeeshan Ali said in an interview to Scroll.in.
The Asia/Oceania Group I tie was moved from it's original venue of Islamabad upon the advice of the International Tennis Federations's (ITF) independent security advisors.
The first day's action will get underway at 1330 IST on November 29th.
India have won all of their previous six Davis Cup encounters with Pakistan.