It is a sign of a player’s greatness when his absence is the most discussed at a post-match press conference.
Feliciano Lopez, ranked 26th in the world, had just won a four-setter but most of the questions shot at him after his win against Ramkumar Ramanathan in the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie were about Rafael Nadal, who withdrew today.
“Rafa is ok but did not want to take risk with his wrist”, “Rafa’s injury is nothing serious, his wrist was getting better and better but it was still painful from what I heard from him”, “we knew during the week that I might play instead of Rafa”, “may be by tomorrow Rafa will be ready”, “confident that he will play over the weekend” – Lopez's answers were similar but so were most of the questions he was asked.
Later, Ramkumar was asked about Nadal as well, as was Saketh Myneni, who lost to David Ferrer in the second match.
The Indians got to know of the replacement only during warm-up but Ramkumar said it did not make much difference. “It was the same tactic -- I had to fight hard, he is a great player and great respect for him. At the same time, I felt I could make a match of it. I was feeling good in the last few days, it was just a matter of few points in the fourth set,” he said.
Lopez’s own game in the match was impressive even if the capacity crowd was firmly behind his opponent.
“I think the atmosphere was great. For us players, it is always such a great feeling when we are playing in front of big crowds like today. I think they were all very excited hoping Rafa would show up. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t play, still the court was full. It is good for tennis and the fans,” he said.
No one had expected the 21-year old, 203-ranked Ramkumar to put up a fight, leave alone take a set off his opponent, but he did. And Lopez was appreciative of the effort.
“It is part of our job -- win two sets, start feeling tired and lose a set, then try to do your best. I think I was lucky I got an early break in the fourth set, it was a big point and after that it became very easy,” he said.
The crowds though did its best. “You know, when I was sitting during the changeovers, I was looking at the big screen and it said 95 percent people wanted me to win and was an amazing feeling. I knew if I had taken the fourth set, I had a chance,” he added saying his Barcelona stint had made him mentally stronger.
Coach Zeeshan Ali admitted not playing many five-setters made a difference. "The more he plays those, the more he will get mentally stronger," Ali said.
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