Tokyo, Sep 15 (IANS): India's No.1 and world-ranked 65th Somdev Devvarman will play 175th ranked Yuichi Sugita in the opening singles of the Davis Cup World Group play-off at the Ariake Colosseum here Friday.
In the second singles, Rohan Bopanna, who only plays singles regularly in the Davis Cup, will take on Japan's top player Kei Nishikori, the highest world-ranked player in the tie at 55th.
The last time Boipanna played Nishikori in the Davis Cup three years ago in Delhi, he Indian beat the Japanese, who was making his Davis Cup debut, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
India's doubles combination on the second day will depend on the outcome of the opening singles. With top doubles exponent Leander Paes skipping the tie because of back spasms, India face a tricky task of finding a player to team up with Mahesh Bhupathi.
Though India have in Bopanna another world-ranked doubles player, he may not be subjected to playing three days running if he has to play a crucial rubber-deciding fifth match.
As of now, non-playing captain S.P. Misra has tentatively paired Vishnu Vardhan with Bhupathi, but he could even ask Somdev to partner Bhupathi after his good showing in the doubles at the US Open where he and his Filipino parnter Treat Conrad Huey defeated Russians Igor Andreev and Igor Kunitsyn 6-3, 6-4 in the first round and then upset 14th-seeded Argentines Juan Ignacio Chela and Eduardo Schwank 6-3, 6-4, before losing to Paes and Bhupathi in the the third round.
"I have put Vishnu Vardhan's name for the doubles. He is in good nick and the coaches are very happy with his approach to the game," Misra told IANS.
"But the rules permit us to change the combination till an hour before the start of the match. The matches here will begin at 1 p.m. and it will be very hot. So, a lot will depend on how we fare on the opening day and how long Somdev and Rohan will be on court for their singles matches."
India are 18-3 head-to-head against Japan.
First singles: Yuichi Sugita (JPN) v Somdev Devvarman (IND)
Second singles: Kei Nishikori (JPN) v Rohan Bopanna (IND)
Doubles: Nishikori and Go Soeda (JPN) v Bhupathi/ Vishnu Vardhan (IND)
Round four: Kei Nishikori (JPN) v Somdev Devvarman (IND)
Round 5: Yuichi Sugita (JPN) v Rohan Bopanna (IND)