NEW DELHI (TIP): Having clinched his 17th Grand Slam title by winning the US Open mixed doubles title with his Swiss partner Martina Hingis last week, Leander Paes flew in from Mumbai and walked into the battle zone here on Wednesday evening to join his team members who are getting ready to take on the three-time champions, the Czech Republic, in the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie.
A celebrated veteran on the Davis Cup circuit, Leander got into his groove straight away, hitting with Rohan Bopanna for almost an hour.
The 42-year-old is confident that the home conditions will help but admitted that the team with physical and mental strength will have an edge. “Of course, we have a good chance to beat them. In sports the margins are very small… between winning and losing the margin can be one good shot. The heat, humidity and slow surfaces are definitely going to benefit the team that is more prepared mentally and physically,” Leander, who has been part of Indian squad for 25 years, said.
“Physical fitness will be a huge factor in this tie. It’s eight in the evening now and it is so humid. If you come out at noon for a best-of-five set match in Delhi heat, the physicality of this tie will be phenomenal. The court is playing really slow even though the ball is jumping,” he added.
“In these conditions, the preparation of past six months is going to matter. The rallies are going to be long and whoever controls the first set and wins it, will do well,” he pointed out.
Talking about the tie, Leander said the three-time champions will put up a tough fight even though the team is playing without world No. 5 Tomas Berdych.
“The quality of tennis goes up when you come into the World Group playoff. They are a strong team even without Tomas Berdych. For them to come here and handle these conditions is something they are used to doing. They perform at a very high level every single day and play about 35-40 weeks on the tour every year. I expect the Czech boys to be very tough. The task for us, the underdogs, is to put the best foot forward,” he added.
It has been a phenomenal year for the Indian who with Hingis became the first pair since 1969 to win three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles in the same season.
Leander’s decision to be available for this tie has pushed Saketh Myneni to the reserves. Leander, however, defended his decision of playing only home ties saying he wanted youngsters to step up.
“Davis Cup is something very important to me. It is not like I am not prepared to put myself forward for the team. It is a conscious decision that I have made. In the last few years, I have let the youngsters play in the Asian zone,” he said. “I am 42 and if I keep playing all the ties that we should win comfortably, then I can play for the next five to seven years. It’s about nurturing the youngsters. As they get better and better, improve their ranking, they can oust me from my job,” he added.