| New Zealand Davis Cupper Alistair Hunt at South Club Sunday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta: The Indians have played some fiercely contested matches against New Zealand on the cricket field, and now the battle shifts to the tennis courts.
New Zealand play India in a World Group qualifier at the South Club starting Friday. And the New Zealanders said they would want to exact revenge of the defeat they suffered at the hands of India in the recently concluded cricket World Cup in South Africa.
“It pained us when we went down to India in the cricket World Cup after beating them so well at home. So, it will be some consolation if we can defeat the Indians here in there own backyard,” the New Zealand manager Brett Hibbert said after a light training session at the South Club Sunday.
But they know full well that it will be one hell of a task. “Grass court is not something our players are brought up on. So it’ll be difficult, to say the least,” the manager added.
“Moreover, it’s Leander’s hometown and the crowd will surely get behind him,” Hibbert felt.
Another factor, which surely will add further troubles to the New Zealanders’ cause is humidity. “It’s so hot and humid, something quite different from what we experience back home,” he added.
“However, under these conditions, it’s better to play India on grass court,” the manager, however, observed. “It will at least make the points shorter.”
Four of the five-member team arrived in the city Sunday. However, New Zealand’s top player, Mark Nielsen, ranked 338, will arrive Tuesday.
“Nielsen has had a bit of up-and-down year. But he had a very good win against Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan in the deciding match of the tie,” New Zealand non-playing captain Glenn Wilson said.
He informed that their second singles player will be Alistair Hunt. “Hunt, ranked 1036, has some grass court experience. So we hope he puts up a bit of resistance,” Wilson added.
He, however, hoped that they are not drawn up to face Leander in the first match itself. “If we can beat the other guy in the first match, and then put some pressure on Leander, it can go either way,” he hoped.
New Zealand lost to India 1-4 when they met in Auckland last year. “It was a tighter match than what the scoreline suggested. Trailing 1-2, Nielsen was playing Paes in the fifth set of the fourth match. If we had won that, we could easily fancy our chances against Harsh Mankad in the decider,” Wilson added.
He, however, ruled out any chances of his team making a mark on the doubles match. “True, Leander and Mahesh aren’t playing together these days. But they know each other too well and I bet there won’t be any lack of understanding between the two,” the coach said.