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Davis Cup: Bopanna leads support for Bhupathi amid removal reports

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Kolkata, Jan 31: Amidst reports of Mahesh Bhupathi's contract being under threat if India fails to qualify for the Davis Cup World Group Finals, veteran Rohan Bopanna on Thursday backed his non-playing captain saying his regular communication with them makes him different from previous skippers.

"A lot more communication with the players not only just during the Davis Cup tie but throughout the entire year. That makes the big difference," Bopanna told reporters when asked how is Bhupathi different to previous captains he has played under.

Bopanna was speaking on the eve of India's World Group qualifiers tie against Italy at the Calcutta South Club here.

According to reports, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) may look for a new captain if the team will remain in the Asia/Oceania Group I, as Bhupathi's term will be over after this contest.

Bhupathi had replaced Anand Amritraj as captain in April 2017. The Italy tie will be fifth under Bhupathi – the multiple Grand Slam winner – who began with a 4-1 win over Uzbekistan in Bengaluru.

"Like Divij (Sharan) mentioned, even though you don't meet him so often but the communication you constantly have brings in a bigger camaraderie when you come into the Davis Cup tie," Bopanna, 38, said.

Asked how Bhupathi motivates, Rohan continued: "From 1997, when I first met him till today, he is very much experienced and a senior player to me. 

"No matter which tournament I played, wherever it was, he always gave that advice which was required and for a player to grow. 

"I think that comes from within him as a player. I don't think he needs to go out there to wanting to really do it.

"The minute he sees any one of us play and if if sees there's something we can improve and change, it just comes naturally to him.

"That's the beauty of a player. It's great to have him as a captain for us to get better and become better tennis players."

His doubles partner Divij Sharan had echoed Bopanna.

"Obviously we don't get to spend that much time with as we're travelling 30-35 weeks. But he very closely follows all our matches. I always hear from him. He watches them online. It's great to have him by our side and be there on court by our side."

The pair will take on Italy's top-ranked players Marco Cecchinato and Simone Bolleli in the doubles rubber on Saturday.

Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran, the singles players for India, also heaped praise on Bhupathi under whom the team twice reached the World Group Play-off stage.

"He's an invaluable addition to the team. The fact is he's played at a very high level for a long time and all of us are better off taking his advice.

"He's definitely won many Davis Cup matches under high pressure and he knows how to help us deal with all the things that come with Davis Cup. I'm very happy that he's here with us," said Prajnesh, who will play the second singles tie on Friday against Italy's debutant Mateeo Berrettini.

"I mean we all have a lot of respect and that's the very important thing out of all. Having him sitting by our side, puts any team under a lot of pressure. It's good to have him," said Ramkumar whose first rubber is against Italy's highest ranked singles player Andrea Seppi.

Bopanna was also asked about the new format where the ties are made to two days with two singles on Friday and a doubles plus two singles on Saturday.

"Throughout my career we have adapted to situations not only playing in different style but also in the ATP circuit there was a change where it turned into a super tie-breaker in the third set. It's going to be equal to everyone. As players we just have to adapt to the format and you know to make use of the advantage towards us."

Ramkumar also spoke on his first rubber against seasoned Seppi.

"It's going to be difficult but you know playing at home with the home crowd and playing on grass is of course an advantage for us. I'm going to stay aggressive and hopefully our team wins."

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