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Tennis | Davis Cup

Leander Paes © Gallo Images

Paes leads depleted India against S. Korea

Indian veteran Leander Paes will lead a rag-tag side into Friday's Davis Cup tie against South Korea after a dispute with the national federation deprived the team of its best players.

Eleven of India's first-choice players, barring Paes, refused to play in the Asia-Oceania group one tie after the All-India Tennis Association (AITA) did not accept all the demands put forward by them.

Paes, 39, who has been a Davis Cup regular since 1990, was left with three debutants, all ranked outside the top 500, to carry India's hopes at the DLTA courts in New Delhi.

Virali-Murugesan Ranjeet (ranked 511) was drawn to play unranked Cho Min-Hyeok in the opening singles. The 537th-ranked Vijayant Malik will take on number 321 Jeong Suk-Young in the second singles.

Paes will partner Purav Raja in Saturday's doubles against Lim Yong-Kyu and Nam Ji-Sung, before the reverse singles are played the next day.

Paes said he was excited about the tie, but hoped the dispute will end soon so that established players like Somdev Devvarman, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna can return to the national fold.

"The game is bigger than all of us. It will always be," he said. "I personally don't believe in a rebellion. But communication should always be open.

"Why we are here should not be forgotten. Tennis should not suffer, the country should not suffer," said Paes, who won the singles bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

The AITA had agreed to the players' demand for a higher share of the prize money from Cup matches, the appointment of a fulltime physiotherapist and the players' involvement in the choice of venues for ties.

But it declined to remove non-playing captain Shiv Misra, as demanded by the players, who were also unhappy with the appointment of former Davis Cup player Zeeshan Ali as coach.


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