| SUNIL KUMAR: In big league
New Delhi: Talented 19-year-old Sunil Kumar Sipaeya has been picked for both the Davis Cup and Asian Games teams.
Making up the rest of the squad are Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Harsh Mankad and Rohan Bopanna, with Ramesh Krishnan being the non-playing captain. India take on Australia in a World Group play-off tie at Adelaide from September 20-22.
Left-handed Sunil replaces veteran Prahlad Srinath from the squad that beat New Zealand 4-1 in Wellington four months ago.
For the Pusan Asian Games — scheduled from September 29 to October 14 — the selectors have named four-member contingents. Paes, Bhupathi, Bopanna and Sunil make up the men’s team. The women’s team consists of Nirupama Vaidyanathan, Manisha Malhotra, Rushmi Chakravarthi and Isha Lakhani.
While Nirupama will be making a comeback to competitive tennis after marriage, young Lakhani will be making her India debut.
In mixed doubles, Paes will pair with Sania Mirza while Bhupathi’s partner will be Manisha. The second teams in men’s and women’s doubles competitions will be Mustafa Ghouse-Vishal Uppal and Sania-Ankita Bhambri.
The Amritraj factor
Explaining the delay in naming the Davis Cup squad, Shyam Minotra said it was because the selectors had been hoping to rope in Prakash Amritraj, the US-based son of Vijay Amritraj.
“He is an American citizen and the process of gaining eligibility to play for India will take at least a year,” said Shyam Minotra, chairman of selection committee.
Prakash will have to obtain an Indian passport and also meet ITF regulations to be eligible for India. Prakash has earned a wild card for next week’s US Open after winning the USTA under-18 national hardcourt title.
On the choice of Sunil, Minotra said: “Sunil had the talent from the beginning. There was a slump in his form but he has won tournaments in recent months.”
The Australian team, led by non-playing captain John Fitzgerald, includes world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, Mark Philippousis, Wayne Arthurs, Scott Draper and Todd Woodbridge.
DAVIS CUP: Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Harsh Mankad, Rohan Bopanna, Sunil Kumar Sipaeya. ASIAN GAMES: Men’s team event: Paes, Bhupathi, Bopanna, Sunil Kumar. Women’s team event: Nirupama Vaidyanathan, Manisha Malhotra, Rushmi Chakravarthi and Isha Lakhani. Individual events: Men’s singles: Paes, Bhupathi. Men’s doubles: Paes-Bhupathi, Ghouse-Uppal. Women’s singles: Nirupama, Manisha. Women’s doubles: Nirupama-Rushmi, Sania-Ankita. Mixed doubles: Paes-Sania, Bhupathi-Manish.