| Rohan Bopanna at South Club Sunday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: The celebrations hardly matched the resounding nature of victory. Three matches had been won on the final day with not a set conceded to New Zealand, but it seemed as if it was a pre-ordained verdict. The focus was more on the future.
Now that India have again qualified for the Davis Cup World Group play-off round, will Ramesh Krishnan’s team be fourth time lucky'
“It all depends on who we play, hopefully we’ll have a good draw this time,” quipped Ramesh. India have had anything but a decent draw in their three previous trips to the play-off stage. They met three Davis Cup powerhouses in their backyard — Sweden in 2000, the US in 2001 and Australia in 2002 — and were beaten convincingly every time.
“The chances are better for a home tie this time… for example we’ll be hosts if we draw the US, Britain, Czech Republic or Brazil,” Ramesh said. “We’ll have to keep fingers crossed till the draw is made (later this month in London).”
The eight first-round losers of the 2003 World Group competition — the US, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Brazil, Belgium and Romania — will be joined by eight zonal qualifiers in the World Group play-off stage.
The eight strongest teams of that group of 16 will be seeded. The Indians won’t make the top eight and will have to face one of the better teams.
The captain observed that Rohan Bopanna had improved in the last two months. “Today he raised his game a notch… overall he played better than he did against Japan in Delhi. But he has to sit down and think where he can improve. Yesterday was a near winnable match which he lost out,” remarked Ramesh.
Bopanna admitted he had a tough time erasing the Hunt loss from memory. “I couldn’t sleep well last night as the match kept coming back my mind… This morning I felt it was a fresh day and readied myself for a fresh start,” Bopanna said.
“I concentrated much more today and made sure didn’t make silly mistakes like yesterday… the captain, Leander and Mahesh all encouraged me to play my own game.”
This was the second time he had avoided the opposition No. 1 in the fourth rubber. “I was a bit lucky that way but it’s still good to have pulled off two live rubbers which sealed both ties for the country,” Bopanna said.
Paes said he woke up this morning ready for any eventuality. “I was mentally prepared for a deciding fifth rubber against Hunt… but Rohan did well and wrapped it up for us.”
As for the doubles, Paes was happy that he and Bhupathi got the job done professionally after some early jitters. “We didn’t start very well and almost went two breaks down… those things shouldn’t happen.”
Bhupathi admitted there were a bit of nerves in the beginning. “It was my first match of the tie whereas Leander had already played singles… that’s why I took some time to settle down.”
The reunion topic
Paes avoided questions on reuniting with Bhupathi at the press conference but later told The Telegraph: “There’s no question (of a reunion) now as I am committed to David Rikl for the entire year. As for the future, I haven’t given it any thought yet.”
Earlier Bhupathi was asked whether he would respond to Sourav Ganguly’s request to reunite with Paes. “We’ve had a talk but no decision has been taken.”
Paes’ hint was clear: no serious talk on the subject had taken place.