New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Tennis ace Leander Paes has opted out of India’s squad for the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I second round tie against New Zealand which will be played on the indoor hard courts of the Wilding Park Tennis Centre in Christchurch from July 17 to 19.
Saketh Myneni has been named to replace Paes in the squad which also includes Yuki Bhambri, Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna while Ramkumar Ramanathan has been kept as a reserve. The support staff includes non-playing captain Anand Amritraj, coach Zeeshan Ali and physiotherapist Dharmender Pratap Singh.
Barring Paes, the team is unchanged from India’s last Davis Cup match – the World Group Playoff against Serbia – which the hosts lost 2-3 in Bengaluru in September 2014.
“Leander informed us that he will not be playing this tie. He did not give us any reason apart from the fact that his ranking is very low and he will be playing some tournaments to improve his ranking,” India coach and selection committee member Zeeshan told IANS on Friday.
Paes is currently ranked No.24 in the doubles rankings.
India were given a bye in the first round and a win against the Kiwi team will help them advance to the World Group Playoffs. India have a 4-3 advantage against New Zealand and importantly have won the last four contests.
“On paper we should win. We are strong in both singles and doubles. But we should keep in mind the extremely cold conditions we will be playing in. It is going to be 7-10 degree Celsius and very, very cold,” said Zeeshan, a former Davis Cupper.
“They have the home advantage like we did when we last played them in Chandigarh in 2012 when we won 5-0. It was very hot then which played in our favour. They struggled as they suffered from cramps and the heat. But they have a good team. They have two doubles players who are in top-100 and a singles player who is in top-150.”
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) selection committee met here on Friday to select the team. The committee members include chairman S.P. Mishra, Balram Singh, Nandal Bal, Rohit Rajpal and Zeeshan.
New Zealand have named an unchanged squad that beat China in their last Davis Cup clash in March.
The Kiwi team consist of players Rubin Statham, Michael Venus, Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak. All four Kiwi players have had significant results over the past few months.
New Zealand’s Statham has risen in the rankings to world No.342 after winning a Futures event and also making the quarter-finals at a Challenger tournament. He also won a doubles title last weekend in South Korea.
Venus is now ranked 52nd in the doubles. Daniell has jumped to the No.78 spot in doubles rankings. New Zealand’s top-ranked doubles player is Sitak with a ranking of 42.