The AITA selection committee on 25 February decided to keep veteran Leander Paes in the five-member playing squad for the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Croatia, making Divij Sharan the reserve member.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) had to send its final squad to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) by 25 of this month. The national federation had initially announced a six-member squad for the Qualifiers tie, scheduled to be held in Zagreb on the hard courts on 6 and 7 March.
Croatia is the top-seeded team in the 24-team Qualifiers. The 12 winners will qualify for the year-end Davis Cup Finals while the losing sides will be placed in the World Group I. “We have sent our final team to the ITF today. Captain Rohit Rajpal had a chat with all the players before deciding on who is going to be the reserve player. He spoke to Divij as well, conveying that he will be the sixth member of the travelling side,” said an AITA source.
Sumit Nagal, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan are the singles players in the squad while Paes and Rohan Bopanna will do the doubles duty. Bopanna had skipped the last tie against Pakistan citing an injury, while Sharan was busy with his wedding reception at that time.
Paes and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan had played in that tie, held in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan. “We have kept our options open. Coach Zeeshan and I will try all the combinations. Divij remains in the mix,” non-playing captain Rajpal told PTI. “Paes has done well this season. He beat Divij in Pune during the Tata Open Maharashtra and also reached the final of the Bengaluru Open Challenger. So he is in good form. Also, 2020 is his last season, he deserves highest respect for serving the country for 30 years. Divij also felt the same. The team is on the same page,” Rajpal added.
It will be the only second time that India and Croatia will clash in Davis Cup. The last time the two teams met, India had won 3-2 in New Delhi in 1995 with Paes winning both his singles and doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi.
Croatia have two top-50 singles players in their ranks in Borna Coric (ranked 26) and Marin Cilic (ranked 36). Cilic did not play in the Finals, held in November 2019, and Croatia exited after losing group matches to Spain and Russia. It will be interesting to see if Cilic is named in the squad for the tie against India.