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Prakash Amritraj pulls out of Asiad

November 27, 2006 18:03 IST

Indian tennis, on a high after winning the Asian Hopman Cup and a wildcard entry into the main event, suffered a setback, as Davis Cupper Prakash Amritraj pulled out of December's Asian Games in Doha.

Amirtraj, ranked 388, withdrew because of a wrist injury that has kept him out of action since August. He was in the reckoning for a singles spot along with India's top-ranked player Rohan Bopanna, Harsh Mankad and Karan Rastogi.

Apart from the singles, Amritraj and Bopanna were to make up the second men's doubles team, with veteran duo Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi the leading pair.

"We are looking at not only a gold but also a silver medal in the men's doubles," said coach Nandan Bal.

"India is fielding a very strong team, and along with medals in mixed doubles and ladies singles and doubles, we are expecting a bunch of medals in Doha."

Bal also confirmed that Paes is not in contention for the singles.

Bopanna, fresh from three successive victories at the Asian Hopman Cup, is upbeat about his chances even against higher-ranked opponents, like Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea and Yeu-Tzuoo Wang of Chinese Taipei.

Bopanna beat Lee 7-6(5), 6-2 in Bangkok in 2002, before he suffered a bicep injury that kept him out of the game for a year.

But Lee is a much-improved player now and has climbed to 49 on the ATP list. During the Davis Cup Group A first round tie at home earlier this year, Lee had inflicted a 3-6, 1-6, 2-6 defeat on Bopanna.

"We will face more difficult opponents in Doha," said Bopanna, who along with Sania Mirza led India to victory at the Asian Hopman Cup on Sunday. "But getting the three wins under the belt is great preparation; it's different than just practicing. We are confident of doing well against higher-ranked opponents; I have beaten Lee before and it really depends on who plays better on the day."

The All India Tennis Association has not yet named a replacement for Amritraj.

Amritraj and Bopanna made it to the final of the Chennai Open this year and won the Challenger event in Aptos, US. Bopanna has enjoyed a fair run on the doubles circuit, also figuring in the final of the Mumbai Open (with Mustafa Ghouse) and Challenger events in Bukhara and Kyoto.

"This year has been good. But I am not sure who I will be playing with in Doha," said the 26-year-old from Coorg.

The Indian team, along with trainer Sanjay Singh and Dr. Vece Paes, will gather in Doha on November 30.

The women's team comprises Sania, Shikha Uberoi, Ankita Bhambri, Isha Lakhani, Rushmi Chakravarthy and Sandya Nagraj in the individual competition.

Deepti Patwardhan