The fans of Rafael Nadal will not have to wait for long, as the 14-time Grand Slam champion will start the campaign for Spain to get back into the World Group with the opening rubber against Ramkumar Ramanathan on Friday evening.
The president of the Asian Tennis Federation and the life president of the All India Tennis Association (AITA) drew the name of Rafael Nadal, in deciding the first match of the Davis Cup World Group play-off.
On the first day, the No.1 player of a team plays the No.2 of the other team, in the two singles matches. The Spanish captain Conchita Martinez was understandably unperturbed about the combination on the opening day, owing to the wealth of experience at the command of the team. Nadal himself continued to be very respectful for the Indian team and predicted a tough match for "everyone".
"It is humid and very warm. Home conditions do make a difference. We do have the names, ranking and we are the favourites. We have to play our best", said Nadal.
Emphasising that as professional players, they were used to playing in tough conditions around the world, Nadal pointed out that the humidity in Delhi was higher than any event in the season.
"It is important to be ready to play singles and doubles, best of five sets. There will be hard moments on court", said Nadal, quite chastened owing to the fact that Spain has been languishing out of the World Group for two seasons, despite a plethora of world class players.
Quite understandably, Ramkumar, whose parents have flown in from Chennai for the tie, was excited about playing one of the best players in the world.
‘’We hope to play close from the first game. I need to play aggressive and go for my shots. I have the team and the crowd to support me. I can play a good match with Rafa’’, said Ramkumar.
Captain Anand Amritraj said that the key would be to play close so that the crowd would get involved in the match.
"Ram is going to play one of the greatest players of all time. If he can hold his serve, the crowd can get involved", observed Anand.
The magnitude of the challenge may easily trigger comparisons with the David and Goliath story, but Ramkumar revealed his composure with a sharp remark that drew prompt appreciation and laughter all around.
"I will make sure that I play my forehand to his backhand. Serve well and close the net’’, said Ramkumar, as he revealed his strategy with a smile.
Saketh Myneni was candid in saying that the jokes doing the rounds were quite good off the court, but things would be different on court,as it would be "serious business".
"We are going to be underdogs. We will try to win a match, playing ugly or great. Hopefully, we will bleed blue out there", said Saketh.
For sure, Saketh will not give any rhythm for David Ferrer as he mixes up so much, interspersing his big game with deft shots that he pulls off so well in the Challenger circuit, to be knocking on the doors of the top-100 rank in the world.
"We hope to play and compete well’’, said Saketh, as he stressed that the draw was only for the opening day, and that the team would study the options for the next two days depending on the flow.
Despite the nomination, there may still be suspense whom Leander Paes, with an enviable 90-33 win-loss record in Davis Cup, would partner in doubles. The 19-year-old Sumit Nagal who has been drafted into the team after Rohan Bopanna withdrew with an injury, said that he would be very excited to realise his dream of playing Davis Cup for India, should the captain press him into service any time.
Considering the way the passes have vanished, and an unending demand for more, it should be a packed house. There may have been a lot of talk about the prudence of playing in the evening, but it has to be conceded that it would not be possible to pull the Spaniards out of their comfort zone, without the host jumping into the fire, to escape the frying pan!
There will be Nadal fans, possibly putting heir patriotism on the back burner. Nadal himself hoped for a respectful treatment from the fans, as he was always happy to come to India and had part of his Foundation in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. He also reminded about having played for Indian Aces in the IPTL.
For sure, it is going to be love all.
September 16: Rafael Nadal vs Ramkumar Ramanathan (5 p.m.); David Ferrer vs Saketh Myneni.
September 17: Feliciano Lopez & Marc Lopez vs Leander Paes & Saketh Myneni (7 p.m.).
Septemebr 18: Rafael Nadal vs Saketh Myneni (5 p.m.); David Ferrer vs Ramkumar Ramanathan.
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