You could forgive Rohan Bopanna if he had hoped that the Serbian team travelling to India for the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-offs on 12-14 September was bereft of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
It would certainly make India’s fight to return to the World Group considerably easier. However, that is not what he wants.
“I think if Novak does come to India, it will be great for tennis,” says Bopanna. “Even for people watching tennis, irrespective of what the outcome may be, I think it will be fantastic to have him in India. I hope he does come to India, and plays for Serbia, it will be nice and a great tie.”
India’s last World Group tie was against Serbia in Novi Sad in 2011 and a Serbian team missing Novak Djokovic defeated an Indian side, led by Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman, 4-1.
This tie has a special significance for Bopanna as it is being held in Bangalore, his hometown.
“It’s my hometown in Bangalore and I’m playing for the first time there so I’m really looking forward to that. You don’t get world-class tennis players to come and play in Bangalore that often.”
The Indian is hoping for a strong turnout from family and friends to help cheer India back to the World Group for the first time since 2011.
"They are very keen," Bopanna said. "All of my friends have been calling me about where to get tickets.”
India have a new captain this year in Anand Amritraj and, having worked with him before at the 2002 Asian Games, Bopanna feels that his influence will help the team to perform even better.
“He brings out the best in you. He’s always communicating with the players and keeps them very relaxed while playing on court as well. I think Anand has done a lot to the team camaraderie and he has made everybody relaxed in the team and brings out the best in them.”
As if that wasn’t enough, it will also be tie number 20 for the Indian, ranked No. 29 in the ATP doubles rankings, which means he will receive a Davis Cup Commitment Award when he next features for India, and he insists his passion for competing in the tournament is as strong as ever,
“It’s, I think, the best feeling for any athlete to represent their country. I have been doing it from 2002 and this is going to be my 20th tie so, I think, there is no bigger occasion than to play Davis Cup and to represent your country, and playing it at home makes it even more special.”