A singular challenge

Sports

There is speculation that Yong-Il Yoon, captain of South Korea's Davis Cup squad, unlike the rest of his team, can speak some English. But it seems he would rather keep communication with the outside world to a minimum. Requests for interactions with the Korean players are to be routed through Yoon and these are immediately turned down. It takes the mandatory pre-match interaction for the entire visiting team to be assembled for the pleasure of the journalists. However, the session of whisper-down-the-alley involved such numerous links as the coach, players, translator, earnest members of the federation and the journalist who put his hand up for the question several minutes previously that any information that emerged from either end of the chain was bound to be garbled and obtuse.

The Korean practice sessions, unattended by anyone bar those involved in sprucing up the stadium for Friday's rubbers, are set apart in their intensity. There are elaborate warm-up and warm-down rituals and the session itself is relentless but varied.

If it were indeed a deliberate strategy to impose a kind of a siege mentality within his camp while keeping the hosts guessing, Yoon did not really have to go that far. India's captain SP Misra, who had sat through the draw ceremony earlier, and who had claimed he was happy with the order of play that was decided on, had to be told that Korea were holding back their most experienced singles player Yong-Kyu Lim for the doubles match.

Maybe there was enough on the captain's mind without his having to worry about the rivals' strategy. Ranked 511 in the world and making his Davis Cup debut, VM Ranjeet was announced as the 'No. 1 Indian player' during the draw. It would be understandable had he examined the emcee's voice for a trace of irony. Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja complete the unlikely trio that will make its Davis Cup bow over the next two days. The lots decreed that Ranjeet play the un-ranked Min Hyeok Cho in the first rubber but even so, it is unlikely that the Indian will consider himself the favourite.

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