Christchurch, July 16: More than the opponents it is the challenging cold conditions that will test Indian players when the visitors take on New Zealand in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I tie, here from tomorrow (July 17).
The winner will advance to the World Group play-offs and India will certainly start as favourites in the second round tie against the Kiwis.
The temperature is hovering around 5 to 7 degrees and Indian players are not used to playing in such extreme weather even though the matches will be played indoors at the Wilding Park Tennis Centre.
On paper, India simply outweigh the Kiwis as singles players Somdev Devvarman (148) and Yuki Bhambri (151) are ranked much above the host players. Wimbledon semifinalist Rohan Bopanna also provides the added class.
He's world number 10 in individual doubles ranking and along with Saketh Myneni will make a solid Indian doubles team. Kiwi's top-ranked player in the tie is Jose Statham, who is placed 345th.
Michael Venus, who usually plays doubles, will do the singles duty and has a singles rank of 548. He though is top-50 player in the doubles. Similarly, Artem Sitak (43) and Marcus Daniell (66) are well placed in the ATP doubles chart.
India enjoy a superior record against the Kiwis, having whitewashed them 5-0 when they met last time in Chandigarh. In the last four ties India are undefeated. It was only in 1970s that India suffered three defeats against them.
Somdev, who is coming into the tie after a morale boosting Challenger title win in the USA, though said they can not afford to take the hosts lightly.
"The conditions are definitely tougher for us. We are not used to playing in these kind of conditions but to be honest with you, we are not taking these players lightly. We know these players have played really good tennis to reach this position. They beat a much stronger Chinese team early this year," Somdev told PTI.
"Both Statham and Venus pulled off singles wins, so that's huge. These guys know what they are doing. They are very dangerous specially in New Zealand. Me and Yuki are expecting very tough matches tomorrow," Somdev said.
Somdev will open India's campaign against Venus while Yuki will clash with Statham in the second singles. The 23-year-old Yuki also felt that they have a real fight at hand.
"We all know in Davis Cup ties rankings don't matter. They have a solid doubles team and its not going to be easy. So hoping Rohan with his experience can help Saketh and help us get that crucial point," Yuki said.
Talking about the opening match, where his former doubles partner Venus will take on Somdev, Yuki said,"I know him quite well. He is a dangerous player when he is on and it's not going to be an easy one for Somdev."
The winner of the tie will advance to the World Group Play-offs, to be played in September.