New Delhi: Yuki Bhambri, who is the top singles player of the country, will open India's Davis Cup campaign when he takes on world number 85 Lukas Rosol in the opening singles rubber of the World Group play-off tie against Czech republic, here on Friday.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely picked up the slip bearing Yuki's name at the draw ceremony, which was also attended by Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal apart from AITA and ITF officials.
The second singles will be played between India's number two player Somdev Devvarman (ranked 164) and Czech number one Jiri Vesley, who is ranked 40 in the world.
On Saturday the Indian team of Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna will fight it out with Radek Stepanek and Adam Pavlasek. The reverse singles will be played on Sunday.
Yuki, who had stated that he would prefer playing in cooler conditions, said, "I want to make a good start and put the Czechs under pressure. I can play freely at 0-0."
Indian captain Anand Amirtraj said the draw has come out "the way we wanted".
"It's slightly easier to play first match and Som had to see and wait how it goes (and plan accordingly)," Anand said. Paes, who is the most experienced player in the team, said Indians must capitalise on hot conditions but the players have their own individual style of doing it.
"If we can be 1-0 up or one-all, it makes the doubles very very important. This tie is going to be very, very difficult considering that we are playing against two-times champions. Both Yuki and Somdev have their work cut out. Yuki has been playing well in the last few weeks. It's going to be hot and we have have to capitalise on this.
"Every player has his own individual style of preparing for matches. It is not necessary that what works for me will work for Somdev. We have developed our own styles how to handle the heat and stay away from cramping. Davis Cup is five set matches. That's not an easy task. The boys have to keep hydrating," Paes, who is the fourth most successful player in the Davis Cup history with 89 wins, said.
Paes also said it will be "interesting for me to see what is the strategy whether to play long rallies or finish the points early".
Vesley is yet to win a live singles rubber but Somdev said that does not make the Czech a lesser player. "He is top-50. I don't see him an inexperienced player by any means. It's going be tricky. He is pretty solid."
Jaitely described Paes as a old wine that gets better with time, referring to his 17th Grand Slam title win at the recently concluded US Open. AITA President Anil Khanna asked Sonowal to consider Somdev, Yuki and Saketh Myneni in the TOPS scheme. When quizzed about the same, Sonowal later said that the government needs to look at "some things" before taking such a decision.
Meanwhile there were several light moments during the draw ceremony, keeping the people in attendance in splits.
When Radek Stepanek was asked if he was troubled by heat as he missed the second practice session yesterday, he asked the scribe back, "Are you an Indian spy?"
Later he went on to explain, "I did not miss anything. My practice went as I had planned it. I am following my schedule. I just went easy yesterday, getting ready for the days ahead."
When Paes answered one question in Hindi, coach Zeeshan Ali, who was sitting in the audience, asked the veteran player "Aapne itni acchi hindi bolna kab seekha (when did you learn to speak hindi so fluently). The gathering burst into laughter and Paes replied, "From February 1990, when we played together. I miss you on my side. We can again order a biryani between 4th and 5th set."
Paes also asked the team to make a plan to rag Saketh, who has already played three ties for the country.
"If we win the doubles this time, Saketh will dance. Let's prepare a nice initiation for him," he said to the fellow players.
Rosol, who beat Rafael Nadal in 2012 Wimbledon, said he was comfortable playing the first match of the tie.
"It's always nice to bring the first point. I am comfortable to start first. I am looking forward to playing Yuki," Rosol said. Vesley said he expects "a tough match" against Somdev.
"But I feel I have the game good enough to take the point."