Calcutta: The Kiwis have hit upon a recipe to roast Leander Paes in the Davis Cup. Put early pressure, take the first set and go for the kill.
“We have noticed he is at his most vulnerable in the first set,” New Zealand captain Glenn Wilson said two days before the Asia Oceania group I second-round tie.
“You have to catch him off guard and push him on the defensive. If you let him get his rhythm, Paes will knock you over.”
The fact that India’s second-most successful Davis Cupper (after Ramanathan Krishnan) doesn’t play singles on the circuit these days is another factor the visitors want to cash in on. “Paes’ focus is so much on doubles it won’t be easy to get into the singles groove quickly. Mark (Nielsen), on the other hand, has been playing some good singles of late,” Wilson said.
On Friday, Paes will be facing Nielsen while Rohan Bopanna will take on Alistair Hunt. Thursday morning’s draw will determine who plays the first match.
With Mahesh Bhupathi joining practice, Ramesh Krishnan had the full team at his disposal for the first time this week. And though he was satisfied with the way his doubles team worked out over two sessions, the Indian captain would have been happier if Paes had arrived two days earlier.
“It would have been better if Leander had started practising from Sunday rather than Tuesday,” Ramesh said. “But he made the final in Miami and couldn’t have come earlier. We’ve got to make do with what we have, after all we don’t live in a perfect world.”
Bhupathi, set to play with his old partner for the second time this year — they won the middle rubber of the tie against Japan in Delhi two months ago — found the conditions very tough and energy-sapping.
“Anytime Leander is playing on grass against teams like these, we start favourites. But the conditions will test both teams. I won’t be a cakewalk,” Bhupathi predicted.