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Dawn of the new age

Dawn of the new age
It will be the beginning of a new era in Indian tennis when a young Davis Cup team, sans all the proven stars, battles it out against New Zealand to stay in the Asia Oceania Group I from Friday.

A 20-year-old Yuki Bhambri and Vishnu Vardhan, who impressed at the London Olympics, will lead the Indian challenge in the absence of the big names who damaged their reputations with public spats not so long ago.

Every country faces transition when the seniors pass on the baton to the youngsters but the way it has begun in Indian tennis is not something to cheer about.

The foursome of Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman are missing in the line-up and it will be a big test of nerves and skills for the youngsters.

Both Paes and Somdev Devvarman, who is out due to a shoulder problem, are expected to make a comeback when the next Davis Cup assignment comes.However, there is uncertainty if Bhupathi and Bopanna will come back to represent the nation in the Davis Cup as they have been axed from the side due to the bitter selectionrow ahead of the Olympics which started with both of them refusing to partner Paes.

The national federation, AITA, could afford to kick them out and experiment with the youngsters since they are capable of taking the fight with not-so-strong rival in New Zealand in this tie.

The rankings and the recent performances point towards superiority of young Indian players and the hot weather conditions would also suit them but it will be a mistake to take the Kiwis lightly in the first round of the play-off tie.

The overall record between the two teams stands at 3-3 but India have won the last three ties, giving the hosts a definite edge.

The winner will remain in Group I while the loser will play Chinese Taipei next month, where the vanquished team will be relegated to Group II for the 2013 season.

India would fancy their chances in the tie since Yuki, Vishnu Divij Sharan and Sanam Singh all have had a very good season thus far. Both in ranking and performance on the Tour, Indian players are a notch above the Kiwis. Yuki is the highest-ranked singles player among all, who will play in this tie, at 179th. The Delhi lad, who has amazing fighting skills and some big ground strokes, has won Challenger titles in both the singles and the doubles this season. He has also reached quarter-finals of four other tournaments.

Compared to that, New Zealand’s top player Jose Rubin Statham is ranked 317th. He was mostly successful while playing ITF Futures, a notch below the Challengers.
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