NEW DELHI (TIP): The best-laid plans often go astray. Up against the Davis Cup top seeds in the World Group Playoffs, the hosts were banking on searing heat and humidity to sap the energy of the Czech players in unfamiliar conditions. But with the clouds hovering around and a distinct possibility of rain, it was Jiri Vesely & Co who had the bigger smile on their faces.
True, you start at 0-0 and the Indian team has always been known to be resolute on home turf but the Europeans have a reputation to defend. They have been in the World Group since 2006 and the ignominy of dropping out would spur them to a higher level.
The absence of Tomas Berdych from the encounter against Australia had its undesired effect as the Czechs now stare into the abyss. And the towering World No. 5’s name has been on everybody’s lips as the non-playing captains admit what a difference he would have made to this tie too.
“If you have a top-10 player in your team, you automatically grab one or two points,” Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil said. “But we have played without Tomas or Radek earlier too and have won.”
Anand Amritraj, his Indian counterpart, says it’s no longer mission impossible for India now. “It’s a much more balanced match now. Now, we have a fighting chance.”
Vesely is a top-40 player. The 22-year-old son of a tennis coach and a shoe manager was the ATP Star of Tomorrow in 2013, has the Auckland Open under his belt, and reached the third round of the 2015 US Open before wait a minute retiring against John Isner in the heat of New York. That makes you wonder but a five-setter against Ivo Karlovic in the previous round may have been the determining factor.
Somdev Devvarman, who has not lost a match here since 2010, will face the 6’6″ Vesely deep in the afternoon. He had arrived earlier than the rest of the team to get acclimatised to the conditions and coach Zeeshan Ali believes the draw has been favourable to the Indians that way.
Lukas Rosol, also standing tall at 6’5″, could have been an ice hockey star but he found his calling on the tennis courts of Brno, his claim to fame being his Wimbledon centre-court dumping of Rafael Nadal in 2012. He is not a heart-warming character, if Andy Murray is to be believed, as the Scot was on the receiving end of a bump at a changeover once. “Everyone hates you on the tour,” was the World No. 3’s retort.
The 85th-ranked player won’t be attempting any of his shenanigans in New Delhi but there would be a lot of love pouring out of the Czech camp if he could swat the challenge of Yuki Bhambri in the opening match.