Brazil’s top player Thomaz Bellucci takes on India’s Rohan Bopanna in the opening singles at the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie in Chennai on Friday.
India’s leading player Somdev Devvarman faces Ricardo Mello in the second rubber, while the experienced duo of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes play Marcelo Mello and Bruno Soares on Saturday.
The Brazilian and Indian camps both thought the draw didn’t favour either team in particular, maintaining that rankings don’t mean too much in Davis Cup and all depends on how well the players perform on the day.
“In this tie there’s not much difference between the teams, in terms of repertoire, rankings and performance,” said Paes. “Even the draw really didn’t give too much away in my opinion.
“I always feel that whichever team comes out to play better on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday is going to win. That’s what I like to focus on, making sure that I’m ready to play when the bell rings.”
Bellucci is ranked No. 28 in the world and Mello is No. 81, compared to Devvarman’s No. 98 and Rohan Bopanna’s No. 476, but India has always enjoyed a good home record, which could prove to be crucial in this tie.
From the days of Ramanathan Krishnan in the 50s and 60s, through Vijay and Anand Amritraj in the 70s and 80s, and then to Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes in the 90s and into the new millennium, Indian players have acquired a habit of defeating higher ranked players at home.
“The home conditions and the home crowd will always favour us,” said Shiv-Prakash Misra, India’s captain. “Our boys have always played to their potential in Davis Cup. At that time rankings don’t matter. With the crowd support and home conditions they do much better than in other tournaments.”
Against this background India might be favourite to win and retain its place in the World Group, but the Brazilians have adapted well to the heat in Chennai and are pleased with their preparations.
The tie could hinge on Saturday’s doubles rubber, and although Paes and Bhupathi are favourites to pick up the point for India, Joao Zwetsch believes the Brazilian pair could produce an upset.
“We have chances in the doubles,” said the Brazilian captain. “I know they’re a strong team. They’re great players, have a lot of experience in Davis Cup and have won a lot of titles, but Davis Cup is special and if our team can their best we should have our chances.”
India qualified for the World Group in 2009 for the first time in a decade, courtesy of an away victory over South Africa. However, Misra’s team went down 3-2 against Russia in this year’s first round in Moscow.
Brazil has lost in the World Group play-offs for the last four years and will be hoping for a change in fortunes to gain promotion to the elite group for the first time since 2003. Brazil defeated Uruguay 5-0 to earn its place in the play-offs.
The full draw is listed below.
Rohan Bopanna (IND) v Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
Somdev Devvarman (IND) v Ricardo Mello (BRA)
Mahesh Bhupathi / Leander Paes (IND) v Marcelo Melo / Bruno Soares (BRA)
Somdev Devvarman (IND) v Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
Rohan Bopanna (IND) v Ricardo Mello (BRA)