Davis Cup Legend Leander Paes Won’t Be Missed by India – Mahesh Bhupathi

Kolkata: Captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Wednesday made it clear that India won’t miss veteran Leander Paes during their upcoming Davis Cup Qualifier against fancied Italy at Calcutta South Club on Friday-Saturday.

Paes, who is the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup with a record of 43 wins overall, has been sidelined since India’s 3-2 win in China at the Asia/Oceania second round in April last year.

Asked if India would be at a disadvantageous position minus Paes on familiar surface at the South Club, Bhupathi was dismissive in his reply. “No, it’s not.”

However Bhupathi is happy that India have both right-handed (Ramkumar Ramanathan) and a left-handed (Prajnesh Gunneswaran) singles player.

Bhupathi pointed out that in number one singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who is ranked 102 and is a left-hander, he’s got a “dream” combination.

“Prajnesh has got big serve, big forehand, and he’s a left-hander. I think it’s the captain’s dream to have that kind of variation in your side,” Bhupathi said on the eve of their draw of the Davis Cup qualifier.

Excited to have big-serving left-hander Prajnesh in the side, Bhupathi drew a parallel with cricket.

“In cricket, the preferred opening pair is a left-right combination. And on day one, I’m going with left-right combination. I think it’s a great variation to have.

“And for me, it’s even a bigger bonus that Prajnesh is now almost near top-100 in the world. So he’s obviously brimming with confidence.”

Looking ahead Bhupathi said India would have Prajnesh, Ramkumar Ramanathan and indisposed Yuki Bhambri inside top-100 by the end of this year.

“I think all of them between 65 and 70, honestly. I mean, we all know that the Yuki if he stays healthy, he has that in him.

“Prajnesh literally has nothing to defend till end of March so there’s only one way to go up for him and Ram is up and down, he can lose 10 first rounds in a row and all of a sudden he’s in the final Tour event. So you know, he’s a bit of a wild card but you know that’s the dream scenario,” Bhupathi said.

Italians sweated it out at the central court for an hour and looking at the combination it seemed the Corrado Barazzutti-captained side would prefer top-two Marco Cecchinato and Andreas Seppi ahead of the spirited Matteo Berrettini.

“That may be the pattern on day one. But we are not ruling out any surprises,” he said of world number 53 Berrettini, who had beaten the top-ranked Indian in Chengdu ATP in China last year.

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