India’s Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan feels it will be a milestone in his career when he faces Pakistan in the Davis Cup at the age of 30. He firmly believes that winning against a weaker opponent would not take anything away from his debut.
The Chennai-based left-hander churned out results consistently in the last two-three years but was not considered for Davis Cup selection due to the presence of higher-ranked players.
An opportunity arose when top players refused to travel to Pakistan. With the International Tennis Federation moving the matches out of Islamabad, Jeevan sneaked through the back door.
However, a shoulder injury ruled Rohan Bopanna out and Jeevan is now set to make his debut alongside the legendary Leander Paes.
“We have very good doubles players in our country,” Jeevan was quoted as saying by PTI. “We have two guys in top-50. I don’t look at it as holding back. Tennis is a journey. I am 30-years-old, I enjoy playing on Tour, regardless of whether I get to play Davis Cup or not. But it is a special feeling to play for India. And, it’s not a step forward, it’s part of the journey.”
He added, “I am excited to be part of the squad. It’s any player’s dream to represent the country, it’s the highest honour for a player to represent the country.”
The big-serving Saketh Myneni is also in the squad but indications are that it will be Jeevan, who will play alongside Paes in the doubles. Asked how his game complements Paes’ since both are good at the net, Jeevan said their left-right combination would trouble the opponents.
“We both have trust in each other’s ability to put away balls at the net. The key is serving with left-right combination, that’s a big advantage we have. I have done well with my right hand partners in the past, I have done well on ad-court too. Bopanna and I won Chennai Open with me on the ad-court, so that’s a familiar territory for me.”
Pakistan’s top players Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan have pulled out of the tie, protesting the shifting of matches to Nur-Sultan. In their absence, Pakistan’s junior players will compete against India, making it a no-contest even before the start of the tie.
However, Jeevan warned against taking the tie lightly. He said: “A match is a match, a win is a win. I don’t look at the opponent whether he is a great player or somebody not that good a player. At the end of the day, nobody remembers, what was the score or who was the opponent. People just remember who won or who lost.
“Also it’s not an easy decision for those guys to not to come, I can understand their position. They are both great guys but I am excited to be playing regardless of who is playing.”
Jeevan achieved his career best rank of 64 this year but dropped out of top-100 as the season drew to a close. But, he is not bothered, saying he is playing bigger tournaments now.
He said: “I feel like I am playing my best tennis right now. Maybe the results did not come as they come the last year but I would say last year I was playing on Challenger circuit which gave me the opportunity to play on Tour this year.
“The goal is to play on ATP tour. As long as you are playing up, that’s good. That’s the process I am on for the last three-four years.”
Jeevan said he will play with compatriot N Sriram Balaji in the 2020 season. “He has a big serve and is a natural ad-court player while I play on deuce court. I am also hoping that Rohan recovers quickly. It’s Olympic year, so we want all our players to be fit. I wish him speedy recovery.”