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Paes steps down as Davis Cup captain

Last updated on: August 19, 2008 18:28 IST

Leander Paes has stepped down as captain of India's Davis Cup team just over a month before the crucial World Group play-off match against Romania.

Former Davis Cup player S P Mishra, manager of the team for the tie against Japan in April, has been appointed non-playing captain for the match in Bucharest, in September, the All India Tennis Association said in a statement on Tuesday.

Paes had informed AITA secretary-general Anil Khanna about his decision to step down shortly after losing in the doubles quarter-finals at the Olympics.

"He (Paes) would like to step down as captain of the Davis Cup team for the tie against Romania as he wanted the best Davis Cup team to represent the nation," the statement said, adding, "And did not want to leave any doubt in anyone's mind for their non-participation to represent the country in the biggest team event."

Three members of the Davis Cup team -- Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj -- had revolted against Paes after the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania round I tie against Uzbekistan, saying the captain had put his interests above that of the team.

Though the revolt was withdrawn for the home tie against Japan, the players maintained that their letter to the AITA outlining their grievances against Paes would stand.

Keeping away from controversy, the AITA has picked the two highest-ranked players for the tie in Bucharest, which will be played on red clay in Clubul Sportiv Progresul.

Somdev Devvarman, who broke into the top-250 following a great run on the circuit, replaces Bopanna. He along with Amritraj will carry out singles duty for India while Paes and Bhupathi make up the doubles team.

"Somdev has been picked on the basis of his recent performance. Leander and Mahesh being our best doubles
players picked themselves into the squad. But Rohan has not been selected because Prakash and Somdev are in better form and are ranked higher than him," Khanna said.

Somdev created history this May when he became the first Indian to win back-to-back title at the US Collegiate NCAA championship. He was also only the third player to defend his title since 1977, when the current 64-player tournament format was adopted.

The 23-year-old strung together an amazing run since turning professional. He won three Futures events and a Challenger title and had an unbeaten streak of 22 on the tour before losing in straight sets to Japan's Go Soeda in the quarter-finals of the US $100,000 Vancouver Challenger and then knocking out American wildcard Taylor Dent in three sets at the Legg Mason tennis classic in Wasington earlier this month.

"Of course, Rohan is more experienced but Somdev is in great form and we thought he would be a better choice. Current form and performance were the only criteria while selecting the team," Khana said.

Paes holds the highest win-loss record for India having won 83 Davis Cup matches against 31 losses.

In a career spanning over last 17 years he has played 44 Davis Cup matches and he took over as the playing captain of the team after Ramesh Krishnan stepped down as non-playing captain.

Indian squad for the Davis Cup World Group Play-off tie against Romania:
Prakash Amritraj
Somdev Devvarman
Leander Paes
Mahesh Bhupathi
SP Mishra (captain)