A six-member team from India, featuring 1996 Olympic Games bronze medalist Leander Paes, will head to Croatia for their tie in the Davis Cup 2020 qualifiers next month.
The team, announced by the All India Tennis Association (AITA), comprises singles players Prajnesh Gunnewaran, Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan along with three doubles players in Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan and the 46-year-old Leander Paes.
The squad will be led by Rohit Rajpal, who has been retained as the non-playing Davis Cup captain, while former Indian Davis Cup player and Olympian Zeeshan Ali will serve as coach.
The tie against Croatia is scheduled on March 6th and 7th at the Dom Sportova in capital Zagreb, in what is expected to be a stern test for the Indian Davis Cup team.
"I know they are the 2018 winners," Rohit Rajpal told the Press Trust of India (PTI). "This is a tough tie, they have the home advantage but we can soak all the pressure and still beat any top team."
Ranking not the sole criteria for selection
Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, ranked 105 in the ATP list, and Purav Raja, ranked 91st, didn't make the cut despite sitting higher than Leander Paes in the rankings.
"Leander is playing well, he just beat Divij (Sharan, at the Tata Open Maharashtra)," reasoned Balram Singh, the head of the AITA selection committee, when speaking to PTI. "The ranking was not the sole criteria. Paes' reflexes are still good and he is moving well."
India made it to the qualifiers of the Davis Cup 2020 after beating Pakistan 4-0 at the Daulet National Tennis Centre in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan in November last year.
Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal had played in the singles matches then, while Leander Paes was paired up with Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan for the doubles fixture.
Leander Paes had announced in December that 2020 will be the swansong year of his storied tennis career.
He most recently participated in the Tata Open Maharashtra in the doubles, paired with Australian Matthew Ebden. The duo had beaten the India-New Zealand pair of Divij Sharan and Artem Sitak in the round of 16 fixture on Tuesday before bowing out in the quarter-final on Thursday.
Paes has played an incredible 57 ties in Davis Cup since making his debut in the team competition back in 1990.