BENGALURU, April 6: Long-serving Leander Paes was today dropped for the first time in 27 years from India�s Davis Cup squad as non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi picked Rohan Bopanna instead for the tie against Uzbekistan. The Asia/Oceania Zone Group I tie begins here tomorrow. Bopanna will pair up with Sriram Balaji in the second round doubles tie and lock horns with Farrukh Dustov and Sanjar Fayziev at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association.
Bopanna is ranked 24th in the world, 29 spots above Olympic medallist and multiple Grand Slam winner Paes (53rd).
Ramkumar Ramanathan will spearhead India�s singles challenge in place of injured Yuki Bhambri. Ramanathan will face Temur Ismailov in the first singles rubber tomorrow.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who replaced the injured Bhambri, will take on Fayziev in the second singles rubber.
In the reverse singles on Sunday, Ramanathan could face Fayziev and Gunneswaran will be playing the final rubber against Ismailov.
Justifying his decision to pick Bopanna over Paes, Bhupathi said the Bengaluru lad is serving and seeing the ball well and also had a good start to the year.
�Yeah, like I said the conditions obviously are very quick here. Rohan is serving well... That was the basis of the decision,� Bhupathi said.
Paes, who made his Davis Cup debut against Japan in 1990 at Jaipur, has been dropped from the Davis Cup team on form � or the lack of it � for the first time in nearly three decades.
Over the last couple of Davis Cup ties involving India, the focus has had been centred around Paes going past Nicola Pietrangeli�s record of 42 doubles rubbers� wins.
Bhupathi said it was a tough decision to drop his one-time doubles partner.
�It was tough and that is why the last-minute decision. I was clear from the start that I wanted to go with three singles options only because the couple of boys have never played under Davis Cup stress situation, so going in with two (doubles) specialists was going to be a high-risk situation,� he said. � PTI