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India handed a tough draw

Calcutta/London: India were handed a tough Davis Cup draw, pitted against top seeds Czech Republic in the World Group play-offs, to be held from September 18-20, according to the All India Tennis Association (AITA). The venue will be either New Delhi or Pune.

The draw was held in London. India defeated New Zealand 3-2 in a Group I second-round match to reach the play-off stage, while the Czech team had lost 2-3 to Australia in March in the World Group first round.

The formidable Czech team boasts of world No. 6 Tomas Berdych, the Australian Open semi-finalist this year, and multiple Grand Slam winner Radek Stepanek in its ranks. However, both had missed the tie against Australia and they were led by world No. 44Jiri Vesley and Lukas Rosol (54). The Czechs have a 3-0 record against India.

"Anything is possible in Davis Cup," India coach Zeeshan Ali said. "The Czech Republic is a tough team. Last time we played Serbia. Any team that has come from the World Group is going to be tough. But the biggest advantage is that we will be playing on home courts. That may give us some chance. That would not have been possible if we were to play in the Czech Republic," he said.

"Let's see if Berdych and Stepanek come. And I will talk to the players tonight and ask for their preference of courts," he added.

Sources have said that the players prefer to play on DLTA courts. The last time the two sides played each other was in 1997, when India had travelled to Pribram, where they lost 2-3. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had played all the singles and the doubles matches.

Before that India lost to erstwhile Czechoslovakia in 1986 and 1926.

AITA has shortlisted New Delhi and Pune as possible venues, and a final decision will be taken after consultation with its executive committee members and concerned parties. India are likely to field almost the same team that beat New Zealand and it remains to be seen if Leander Paes is available to play the home tie. Paes had missed the New Zealand tie.

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