India will expect Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan to repeat their recent giant-killing acts against a completely transformed Denis Shapovalov when the team takes on Canada in its fourth straight attempt to qualify for the Davis Cup World Group, here from on Friday.
Shapovalov made the world take note of him with his shock win over Rafael Nadal at the Montreal Masters. He then became the youngest player to reach the fourth round of the US Open, only his second Grand Slam.
The 18-year-old and world number 51 Shapovalov also scalped Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo Wilfred Tsonga in his astonishing rise in world tennis in the last few months.
On the other side, India have their hopes hung on the shoulders of Yuki and Ramkumar, who too created a splash by knocking down Gael Monfils and tennis’ latest hot property Dominic Thiem, recently.
A lot was expected from the two Indian youngsters since their arrival but injuries to Yuki, ranked 157, and lack of confidence in Ramkumar (ranked 154) has marred their careers.
Of late, both Yuki and Ramkumar have shown encouraging results and thus instill hope that they are capable of pulling off a win over the left-handed Shapovalov.
Yuki has matured as player and shown the mental toughness, requisite to sustain pressure of Davis Cup.
In his recent wins, Yuki has also shown that he can control the game and overcome nerves when faced with crunch situations.
Ramkumar, with his big serve and ever-improving fitness also gives India confidence.
Tackling Vasek Pospisil, the other singles player named by Canada, should not be a big problem for Yuki and Ramkumar. He might be higher-ranked than both the Indians at number 82 but he is coming into the tie after five straight loses on the ATP Tour, the last being in the first round of the US Open.
Yuki played against him back in 2014 when he lost to the Canadian in the quarterfinals of the Chennai Open while Ramkumar has never played against him.
But it was Pospisil who had won both his singles when Canada hosted Great Britain in the World Group first round in February this year.
Shapovalov had lost both his matches, including the deciding fifth rubber in which he was defaulted for hitting the umpire with a ball, struck out of frustration.
If Yuki and Ramkumar can even get one point on day one, it will make a huge difference to how the tie will shape up for India.
Rohan Bopanna and Saketh Myneni, who recently recovered from a foot injury, make a formidable pairing. On the other side of the net would be the seasoned Daniel Nestor and Pospisil or Bradley Schnur, who is yet to play his debut Davis Cup match.
Experts believe that in the absence of world number 11 Milos Raonic in the opposition camp, it is India’s best chance to re-enter the World Group in recent years.
It is the fourth straight year that Indian team is knocking the World Group door, having lost to Serbia (2014 in Bangalore), Czech Republic (2015 in New Delhi) and Spain (2016, New Delhi) in the Play-offs in last three years.
The indoor courts will also make it a high-intensity tie with India captain Mahesh Bhupathi already admitting that margin of error would be very less.
India last played in the World Group in March 2011 when it was crushed 1-4 by defending champions Serbia.
If the players deliver and guide the country to the elite 16-nation World Group, it will be a memorable achievement for Bhupathi in only his second tie as captain after taking over from Anand Amritraj.