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India can produce 'magical moments' against higher-ranked Croatia in their next Davis Cup tie: Coach Zeeshan Ali

New Delhi, Dec 3: Team India under the leadership of captain Rohit Rajpal and guidance of veteran Leander Paes thrashed Pakistan in their Davis Cup tie in Nur Sultan (Kazakhstan) to earn a spot in the 2020 Qualifiers.

As several Indian players objected to travelling to Islamabad for the tie, the International Tennis Federation allowed the match to be held at a neutral venue and Kazakhstan was chosen for the same. A star-studded Indian team was no match to an inexperienced Pakistani side as the former won the tie 4-0. India will now face a higher-ranked Croatia in their next Davis Cup tie, scheduled in March 2020.

India's Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali believes playing Croatia in their backyard is going to challenging for the team but he's optimistic about a decent performance from his team for the Indian teams in the past have blanked some of the best sides in the world.

Coach confident of good show from Indian team

Coach confident of good show from Indian team

While addressing reporters after returning from Kazakhastan the coach said, "Obviously playing Croatia will be a very tough proposition. They were the winners in 2018, their Davis Cup ranking is number two at the moment. So obviously it's not going to be an easy tie. But we've got a couple of months to go before the tie happens in March. So we have to sit down and see what's the best way forward. What are the tournaments the players are going to be playing and what kind of preparations we can have because playing away is going to be challenging?"

"On paper, they are obviously a better team but India's known to have gone out and created some magical moments on the court, where we've beaten higher-ranked teams. So, there no reason why we can repeat that. We have players who are doing well in singles now. I am hoping by March next year, Yuki Bhambri will be fit. We have Prajnesh who is in the top hundred. We've players who are in top hundred in doubles as well. So, after many years, we've got a good mix of players in singles and doubles that we can count on. So it doesn't matter who we are playing, it's all about how we prepare and play our best tennis and stay healthy," the former India Davis Cup player said.

Paes on what keeps him going at 46

Paes on what keeps him going at 46

Paes, who is the most successful player in the history of Davis Cup, continued his domination and won his 44th match. Last year, the Indian tennis legend surpassed Italian great Nicola Pietrangeli's record of 43 Davis Cup wins during the tie against China. The 46-year-old now has 44 wins from 57 ties in the Davis Cup.

When asked about what motivates him even at the age of 46, Peas, who was out of the court for the last 18 months, said, "I need a reason and if I find a good enough reason to do something, nothing will stop me. My reason for this Davis Cup tie was to make sure that India as a team as a nation did not forfeit a tie with the players not going to Islamabad to play and then we were relegated to a zonal group for the next three to four years and fight our way up. None of us has put up 30 years of effort to see that happen."

The winner of 18 Grand Slam titles while talking about physical and mental toughness said, "No, physically it's not tough because nowadays doubles are played three short sets, you've got a tie break at six-all, the scoring format is quite quick. So it's really about an hour and a half or two of physical effort. My experience carries me through now but in the longevity for what's the best for the team I should not be playing past another year."

We got decent support from Indian diaspora in Kazakhstan: Paes

We got decent support from Indian diaspora in Kazakhstan: Paes

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze medal winner stated that nurturing a new, young team should be the main objective for Indian tennis right now.

When asked about how challenging it was playing in Nur Sultan, Paes said, "It was minus 31 outside the stadium, but we played indoors so it wasn't tough playing indoors but it was miserably cold outside and getting used with the temperature was challenging.

"Whenever you are playing away from home it's always challenging to acclimatise but I've also got to thank the Kazakh Tennis Association because we weren't even playing against Kazakhstan.

"In Nur Sultan, the hospitality that the Kazakhstan Tennis Association showed us, we are very grateful for that. The president himself blessed the tie, his association president and the CEO and their staff made sure that everything was taken care of right from the moment we landed there," Paes added further.

Talking about the support the team received from the Indian diaspora in Nur Sultan, the Olympic bronze-medallist said, "There was a kind gentleman who invited us to his Indian restaurant one evening and the good part was that there were a lot of Indian students pursuing medical. So on the first day, we say some hundred of them coming to watch us play and then gradually there were some 800 to 1000 Indian supporters during the match and they were all surprised. And you how a match between India and Pakistan is hyped up so the chants of 'Vande Mataram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' fired up the boys even more and it set the stage for a fantastic performance."

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Story first published: Tuesday, December 3, 2019, 13:48 [IST]
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