India dominated all four singles with the pair of Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan beating the Kiwi singles players Jose Statham and Finn Tearney on Friday and Sunday. In the doubles, New Zealand’s Artem Sitak and Michael Venus, ranked 36 and 56 respectively in doubles, got the better of Leander Paes (ranked 64) and Vishnu Vardhan (332).
The last minute arrival of Vardhan, as a late replacement for the injured Saketh Myneni. There was no shortage of misplaced punctuation either: the question marks were provided by the absence of a fit and available Rohan Bopanna, and Leander Paes did his best to add some exclamations, but may have to face the reality of a full stop.
Bhambri, after six months of his return from injury, impressed in the opener and setting the winning by 6-4,6-4,6-3. Although his game wasn’t of the same level that took him into the top 100 in 2015, it was more than enough for Tearney, who ranked 415. Bhambri’s return is a good news for Indian side; despite more errors, he showed good intensity in all the three sets of his first rubber, suggesting his time has helped boost his fitness levels.
Ramkumar Ramanathan, was knocked out of a Challenger tournament on this same court by Bhambri, in January, a loss that shook his confidence a bit. So he went to fly to the US to train with Emilio Sanchez, of Sanchez-Casal academy, who he has been associated with since his junior days.
Off the court, the Pune crowd apprceiated both the teams. Pune last hosted a Davis Cup 43 years ago, and the decision to move to a non-traditional venues was appreciated by Vijay Amritraj. The spectators who waited till the end of the final and were rewarded by a jig performed by the Indian team, to the tunes of the hit Marathi song Jhingat.
As the night drew to a close, Yuki Bhambri said “I don’t know if the AITA has the desire to do it. I haven’t come across anything in the last 5 to 10 years that shows that desire. Everyone has come up training by themselves and not through a system. That’s why we see just one great singles player every 10 years.”; something that raised an important question regarding the development of the next generation of players.
His comments reminded us about the euphoria of winning the tie aside, Indian tennis has bigger problems, that will be exposed in coming months. There need to be a system to develop the next generation, to find the next Olympic tennis medalist. A new captain is required to bring transparency to selections and leave the egos at the door.