The Indian Davis Cup team faced a big setback as Yuki Bhambri was ruled out on Thursday from the upcoming tie against Uzbekistan due to a knee injury. The development on the first day of the preparatory camp means that at least one of the two reserve members -- either Leander Paes or Rohan Bopanna -- is certain to play.
"Yuki is out of picture and it's big blow. He was playing well this year. He had some pain, he had some tests and I found out two days ago," non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi told PTI after the first practice session of the team.
Interestingly, Bhupathi had made it a rule for the players to prove fitness before making themselves available for national duty. Sunday's session was attended by all members save Paes, to arrive who had won Leon Challenger in Mexico on Saturday and is expected to arrive in India in the next couple of days.
Yuki, who broke into top-100 towards end of 2015, is a vital cog in India's Davis Cup scheme and in his absence it will be extremely tough for the hosts to challenge the visitors, who will be led by World No 70 Denis Istomin.
The Uzbek had beaten Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open second round but his participation in the April 7-9 tie in Bengaluru is under a shade of doubt due to a dodgy heel. Istomin will arrive in Bengaluru on Tuesday night.
Yuki's absence indeed changes the equation since RamkumarRamanathan, who will be leading the singles campaign now, has been struggling for form.
However Bhupathi said in jest,"Now at least, I don't have a problem in picking who I am going to play singles! We just have to pick a doubles combination and after practice in the next three days, we will."
Bhupathi had picked four singles players and now If he picks only one doubles player, both Prajnesh Gunneswaran and N Sriram Balaji will make Davis Cup debut for India and the latter will surely feature in the doubles rubber.
Bhupathi did not comment on the combination though. "I don't want to comment (on this) now," he said. It has been learnt that Vishnu Vardhan, who was called as a seventh member of the squad for practice, has also suffered a freak hand injury.