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India though favourites, cannot underestimate Pak

Written by: Staff

Mumbai, Apr 6 (UNI) India may be firm favourites collectively and individually on paper, but they cannot underestimate the Pakistani challenge in the Asia-Oceania group 1 first round Davis Cup playoff which begins on the Brabourne Stadium grasscourt here tomorrow.

Pakistan no. one Aisam ul Haq Qureshi has been drawn to meet India's no. two Rohan Bopanna in the opening singles, while India's no. one Prakash Amritraj will square off with Pak no. two Aqeel Khan in the second tie.

In the doubles, Indian stalwarts Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will square off with the Jalil Khan (brother of Aqeel)-Asim Shafik combo while it will be Amritraj versus Qureshi and Bopanna versus Aqeel on the last day.

Pak non-playing captain and coach Rashid Malik said he would finalise the doubles combination after the first day's play. If he is forced to play the experienced Qureshi and Aqueel or any one of them in the doubles, it would mean one or both could be playing on all three days. The new Pak pairing have never played Davis Cup doubles, though they have some experience in reverse singles.

Indian skipper Leander Paes, said there is a ''very high possibility'' of him playing the reverse singles, if the tie is still open on the third day. Teams can change their nominated players one hour before the match on the second and third days.

Be that as it may, Qureshi clearly is the stumbling block to India's march into the second round. The debonair 26-year-old Pak ace from Lahore, although ranked a lowly 416 as compared to Amritraj's 230 and Bopanna's 235, mainly because of a recent injury layoff, is no stranger here and has won a few titles on the Indian circuit. He is capable of upsetting both the Indian singles players.

He has, in fact, beaten the 26-year-old Coorgi in a Futures tournament on hard court at Chandigarh 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-3 in December last year.


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