The selection committee of the All India Tennis Association (AITA) has retained veteran Leander Paes in the five-man squad announced on Tuesday for the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Croatia. AITA has also named Divij Sharan as the reserve player of the team.
AITA forwarded the final list of the Indian squad to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Tuesday. These matches of the qualifiers group are scheduled to be held on March 6 and 7. The Indian team is currently in the qualifiers group of 24 countries where Croatia is the top-seeded team.
The 12 teams that reign supreme in the qualifiers group will be eligible for the Davis Cup finals to be held later in 2020, on the other hand, the teams that fail to advance will be placed in World Group I.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, and Ramkumar Ramanathan are the singles players in the team, while Paes and Rohan Bopanna will play doubles. Bopanna withdrew from the previous match against Pakistan citing injury while Sharan was busy in his wedding reception at the time. Paes and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan represented India in the match held in Noor Sultan of 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 the highest respect for serving the country for 30 years. Divij also felt the same. The team is on the same page,” Rajpal added.
This will be only the second time the Indian team will face Croatia in the Davis Cup. The last time both teams faced in Delhi was in 1995 when the Indian team won 3–2. Paes won singles and doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi in that match.
Croatia’s team has two players in the top 50 in the ATP rankings. Borna Coric is 26th while Marin Cilic is ranked 36th. It will be interesting to see if Cilic is chosen in the squad for the clash against India as he did not play in the finals held in November 2019 where the team lost in group matches against Spain and Russia.