New Delhi: Despite having failed to break into the elite World Group in the last three years they reached the play-off stage, the Indian Davis Cup team landed in Holland hoping to be fourth time lucky.
They play the Dutch — ranked 10th and having two top-15 players, Sjeng Schalken and Martin Verkerk — in the qualifying tie from September 19-21.
Raemon Sluiter and Jon Van Lottum are the other two members of the host team captained by Tjerk Bogtstra.
The Indians’ task is made more difficult by the absence of their best-bet Leander Paes, recuperating in Orlando, USA after treatment for a brain lesion.
“Well, it would have been tough even with Leander. Without him, it is going that much more tough,” captain Ramesh Krishnan said from Zwolle, the venue of the match.
The last time India were without Paes was two years ago when they played Sweden. That experience should stand Krishnan in good stead.
“Playing the Davis Cup is by itself special. So the players should be aware of their responsibilities and be inspired themselves,” he said.
Krishnan said Mahesh Bhupathi would be reaching Zwolle on Tuesday while Harsh Mankad, who had been playing on the European circuit, is expected to arrive later in the day.
The rest of the team, Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj besides the captain himself had a morning practice session and was to have another in the evening.
The Ijsselhallen Stadium in Zwolle, 115 km from Amsterdam, is a temporary facility with a capacity of 6000. The surface is Greenset Trophy hard court and the matches will be played indoors.
Krishnan said the stadium was perfectly done and that the indoor-hardcourt combination should not bother his players. “They have enough experience of playing on hard courts, that should help,” he said.
India hold a 2-1 head-to-head record against Holland. The two teams last played in 1996 in India, where the hosts won 3-2. But India’s last visit to the Orange Country was in 1925 when they lost 1-4. They had won there the previous year 4-1.
Krishnan said the decision on who would replace Paes would be made after discussions with Bhupathi.