The All India Tennis Association has confirmed the team that will face Japan in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off to be held on 16-18 September in Tokyo.
The captain, S.P. Misra, has selected the same side that, despite the defeat, produced a spirited performance against current champions Serbia in this year’s World Group first round.
Somdev Devvarman will be the leader of the team with Rohan Bopanna as the second singles player, and Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi teaming up for the doubles. Karan Rastogi and Vishnu Vardhan complete the six-man travelling squad.
Devvarman, the top ranked Indian player and world No. 64, is enjoying the best season of his career so far and has achieved his best ranking, No. 62, in July after reaching the latter stages of both the Indian Wells and Miami Masters events. His good form could prove decisive against a powerful Japanese team that will be led by world No. 48 Kei Nishikori.
But one of the strongest points of the Indian team will be the doubles couple with Mahesh Bhupathi (doubles world No. 6) partnering the legendary Leander Paes (doubles world No. 8). The 38-year-old Paes made his Davis Cup debut 21 years ago and has amazing 86-31 record in the competition. The Japanese doubles players are very far from the Indians in the rankings and this point could prove to be crucial for the outcome of the tie.
India was last promoted to the World Group in 2009 and has remained in the top tier of the competition since then. The Asians have finished runners-up on three occasions, in 1966, 1974 and 1987, but are yet to lift the Davis Cup trophy.
This will be the only all-Asian tie in the World Group play-offs. These two classic rivals have met each other 21 times in the competition, resulting in 18 victories for India and three for Japan.
The most recent of these clashes came in 2008, when India beat Japan 3-2 on the grass of the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium in New Delhi. The decisive point was earned, unsurprisingly, by the local hero Leander Paes in partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi.
DAVIS CUP RADIO: Live commentary of the World Group semifinals - Spain v France and Serbia v Argentina - will be broadcast on the Davis Cup website, alongside round-ups of all the action from the World Group play-offs (16-18 September).