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Rediff.com  » Sports » Shokeen, Rastogi to launch Davis campaign

Shokeen, Rastogi to launch Davis campaign

February 08, 2007 17:35 IST

Indian Davis Cup captain Leander Paes decided to stay away from the singles, nominating youngsters Karan Rastogi and Vivek Shokeen for the Asia Oceania Zone Group I tie against Uzbekistan, starting in Namangan on Friday.

The 19-year-old Shokeen will start the proceedings for India in the first singles against Uzbekistan's top player, Denis Istomin, ranked more than 500 places above him.

Karan Rastogi, who has been a part of the Indian squad for the past two years, will make his debut as India's No.1 player and will take on Farrukh Dustov in the second match.

After an impressive start to the year, India would be looking at Rastogi to provide the edge on the opening day.

With India's top-ranked players Rohan Bopanna and Harsh Mankad opting out of the tie, the debutants will face a stiff challenge against the much higher-ranked opponents on the indoor clay.

India, who had beaten the Uzbeks 5-0 on grass at home in the second round 2005, will be tested thoroughly on indoor clay.

"It's going to be tough for the youngsters. But if you've to learn to swim you must jump in the deep end," said India's coach Nandan Bal.

In the absence of Mahesh Bhupathi, Sunil Kumar Sipaeya will partner Paes in the doubles on Saturday.

Bhupathi-Paes, the champion pair that virtually guaranteed India a point in Davis Cup encounters for almost a decade, split after winning the gold medal at the Doha Asian Games, during which both threw in verbal punches at each other.

Sipaeya, 23, now has big shoes to fill in when he teams up with the captain to face the experienced duo of Istomin and Murad Inoyatov in the doubles.

India, who lost 4-1 in the first round to South Korea last year in an away tie, last played in the World Group in 1998.

Our Correspondent