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No room for excuses now: Mahesh Bhupathi ahead of Davis Cup tie vs Italy

Mahesh Bhupathi explained why the camp will benefit the team ahead of the crucial tie against Canada. (Source: PTI/File)

Non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Wednesday said there is no room for excuses in the Davis Cup Qualifier against Italy starting here Friday, especially after India got whatever they had desired.

Bhupathi said home comfort and the X-factor of Calcutta South Club’s grasscourts hold India in good stead in the tie.

“We definitely feel that this is our best chance to beat Italy on grass. Hard or clay is their strengths,” Bhupathi told reporters on the eve of the draw.

Having lost in the away play-offs to Serbia, India, three-time Davis Cup runners-up, were drawn to play against Italy at home in the Qualifiers in their bid for a coveted place in November’s 18-team Finals in Madrid.

Italy, who had lost to France in the World Group quarters, will have the unfamiliarity of grasscourts, something the hosts are looking at capitalising.

“We will know on Saturday if the advantage played out for us or not. So we’ve got the grass now I don’t think we have any room for excuses anymore,” Bhupathi said.

Contrary to widespread criticism all over the world over the new format, Bhupathi said the shortened arrangement would give India an edge over Italy who are ranked 10th, nine places above the hosts.

“When you’re trying to beat players who are better than you it’s always easier to do it in two sets rather than three out of five. So, when it comes to playing big teams, who are constantly in the world group, I think this change in format is great for the Indian team,” he said.

Bhupathi further said that they may start as underdogs but they are confident of upsetting Italy and do an encore of Vijay Amritraj and Co did at the same venue in the World Group first round in 1985.

“Internally within the 10 of us I think the conversation has never changed. There is a belief that everyone can contribute to hopefully upset the Italians,” he said of their opponents, who lead 4-1 in head-to-head re

“That’s how sport is. When a team is playing another team in any sport, one team is underdog while the other is favourite. We are going in as underdogs, that’s the bottom line.”

India won’t miss Leander Paes: Bhupathi

Captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Wednesday made it clear that India won’t miss veteran Leander Paes during their upcoming Davis Cup Qualifier against fancied Italy at Calcutta South Club on Friday-Saturday.

Paes, who is the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup with a record of 43 wins overall, has been sidelined since India’s 3-2 win in China at the Asia/Oceania second round in April last year.

Asked if India would be at a disadvantageous position minus Paes on familiar surface at the South Club, Bhupathi was dismissive in his reply. “No, it’s not.”

However Bhupathi is happy that India have both right-handed (Ramkumar Ramanathan) and a left-handed (Prajnesh Gunneswaran) singles player.

Bhupathi pointed out that in number one singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who is ranked 102 and is a left-hander, he’s got a “dream” combination.

“Prajnesh has got big serve, big forehand, and he’s a left-hander. I think it’s the captain’s dream to have that kind of variation in your side,” Bhupathi said on the eve of their draw of the Davis Cup qualifier.

Excited to have big-serving left-hander Prajnesh in the side, Bhupathi drew a parallel with cricket.

“In cricket, the preferred opening pair is a left-right combination. And on day one, I’m going with left-right combination. I think it’s a great variation to have.

“And for me, it’s even a bigger bonus that Prajnesh is now almost near top-100 in the world. So he’s obviously brimming with confidence.”

Looking ahead Bhupathi said India would have Prajnesh, Ramkumar Ramanathan and indisposed Yuki Bhambri inside top-100 by the end of this year.

“I think all of them between 65 and 70, honestly. I mean, we all know that the Yuki if he stays healthy, he has that in him.

“Prajnesh literally has nothing to defend till end of March so there’s only one way to go up for him and Ram is up and down, he can lose 10 first rounds in a row and all of a sudden he’s in the final Tour event. So you know, he’s a bit of a wild card but you know that’s the dream scenario,” Bhupathi said.

Italians sweated it out at the central court for an hour and looking at the combination it seemed the Corrado Barazzutti-captained side would prefer top-two Marco Cecchinato and Andreas Seppi ahead of the spirited Matteo Berrettini.

“That may be the pattern on day one. But we are not ruling out any surprises,” he said of world number 53 Berrettini, who had beaten the top-ranked Indian in Chengdu ATP in China last year.