New Delhi, Jan 29 — India’s star tennis player Leander Paes backed his young teammates in the young Davis Cup side and hoped the rookies would punch above their weight against the tough South Koreans in the Group I Asia/Oceania tie, starting here Friday.
Paes admitted that it is going to be tough for the inexperienced team, but said he was up for it.
“It is not the first time I am in such a situation. I have led the team in the past as well. But it a tough situation for the inexperienced team. However, I have full faith in my young team,” said Paes after a practice session here at the R.K.Khanna Tennis Stadium.
“This is my 24th year in Davis Cup and I feel happy to see that they are still pushing me. Good to see the exuberance in the side and they are looking forward to the ocassion,” he said.
Paes, who joined the team here Tuesday afternoon, paired up with Purav Raja for a session of doubles play with reserves Ashwin Vijayaraghavan and Arjun Khade while V.M. Ranjeet and Vijayant Malik had some gruelling singles practice under coach Zeeshan Ali’s watchful eyes on the centre court.
S.P. Mishra, Davis Cup captain, said the mood in the camp has changed with Paes arrival.
“The mood in the camp has certainly changed with the arrival of Paes. There is no player in India, who can match Paes’s Davis Cup record. He knows how to lead a young side. It is a great challenge and I am confident that we will put up a great fight,” said Mishra.
Paes also concurred with Mishra and said he doesn’t see any reason why the team cannot put up a tough challenge against the Koreans.
“The guys will have butterflies in their stomachs. But it all depends on how the individuals handle the situation. For me the most important thing is to represent the country and put my best foot forward,” said Paes.
Asked if it was time for the rebel players to sit down and solve their differences with the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Paes said: “Yes. We are players and we are good at playing the game on the field.”
The AITA had to select a depleted squad after eight players, led by Somdev Devvarman, made themselves unavailable for the tie over their differences with the association.
Paes said he has full faith on his doubles partner Raja.
“I have been playing with Purab for the last two years. He has been my practice partner whenever I am in Mumbai. We are gelling well since we a both serve and volley players and I sure the Koreans will be playing from the baseline,” he said.
Raja said it was a conscious decision on his part to make himself available for the tie.
“It was a conscious decision by me and my family. Representing India in the Davis Cup is the utmost thing that a player can achieve. For me it is also an honour to partner Paes in a Davis Cup match,” he said.
Paes said he would observe the Koreans for the next two days closely.
“I generally arrive for a Davis Cup match on Wednesday. But this time I am a day earlier. So I get a day more to observe them (Koreans). The coach and the captain have already made their observations. We will be putting our best foot forward.
“The Koreans are fast, quick and tough opponents. But the centre court is slower and it will suit our style of play,” he said.