Indian fans came in hordes at the RK Khanna Tennis Stadium in New Delhi on Friday showing unprecedented enthusiasm for a Davis Cup tie with 14-time Grand Slam champion and former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in town for the India vs Spain World Group play-off contest.
Rafa’s arrival had generated a lot of headlines from the moment he stepped on Indian soil, making the Davis Cup one of the most-awaited events involving Indian sports. But to the dismay of the Spaniard’s countless supporters, he was forced to pull out at the last minute.
While it was initially believed that a stomach bug was responsible for his withdrawal, it was revealed that the rest was required because of a wrist complaint.
If Team India had hoped that the absence of the World No. 4 would make the competition slightly easier for them, they were in for a disappointment as Spain never relented. At the end of Day 1, Spain, powered by Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer, unsurprisingly led India 2-0 having hammered Ramkumar Ramanathan and Saketh Myneni into submission.
There were, however, moments in the opening rubber between Ramanathan and Lopez where the young Indian gave enough glimpses of his sheer talent and grit.
177 ranking places separated the World No. 26 Lopez and this young opponent and the gulf was evident when the Spaniard grabbed the first two sets 6-4, 6-4.
It was the third set where Ramanathan was finally able to turn things around as he made inroads into Lopez’s serve in the eighth game to seal the set 6-3. But the experienced Lopez was quickly able to restore order in the fourth set as he raced away to complete the 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win in 2 hours 25 minutes.
The second rubber turned out to be a completely one-sided affair with the World No. 13 Ferrer outclassing India’s No. 1 singles player Myneni, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. The 28-year- old was expected to provide some resistance after he qualified for a Grand Slam main draw for the first time at the recently- concluded US Open.
But the 2013 French Open runner-up’s movement and tremendous defence proved to be an insurmountable barrier for the 137-ranked Indian, with Ferrer securing eight breaks of serve while the Indian managed just one in this contest that lasted 1 hour 28 minutes.