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.
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The Canberra-born star, who pulled out of the Olympics last month and was forced to quit in the third round of the US Open due to injury, was unhappy at courtside media in Sydney and then refused to answer a question on his commitment to Australia.
Kyrgios also revealed he has buried the hatchet with team-mate Bernard Tomic as the Australia team gear up for their Davis Cup World Group play-off clash against Slovakia.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to play.”
“I feel ready. I’m playing probably the best tennis I have,” added the 21-year-old.
“I’ve hit twice since I’ve been here and been going for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, so it’s feeling good and I’m feeling confident with it.
“I just got a niggling injury that came out of nowhere almost. (But) I feel I’ve been going pretty well. I’ve been on the rise the whole year. I’ve been playing well. I feel confident and I think we can do great things.”
Kyrgios – who made his Davis Cup debut in the doubles as an 18-year-old in 2013 – has only played four ties, with a 3-4 win-loss record in singles.
Bernard Tomic and doubles specialists John Peers and Sam Groth complete the team to face Slovakia from September 16-18, where both countries are trying to secure a place in next year’s World Group.
Kyrgios, who like Tomic has a chequered reputation, praised his team-mates, saying: “It means a lot to me being… alongside these guys trying to get back into the World Group.”
The announcement of a Ryder Cup-style event for tennis has received a mixed reaction after a number of attempts to bring new formats onto the scene in recent years
The Laver Cup, as it will be known, will see a European side take on the Rest of the World in a team event already slated for a minimum of two editions.
In today’s #360debate, we ask: Is the Laver Cup a good idea?
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are still the game’s most popular stars and the Laver Cup is an excellent concept.
Injury, diminishing powers and early major losses may have affected both players in recent years – the US Open a case in point – but it doesn’t matter. Fans will still flock to Prague and millions will watch on TV and online.
The event is billed as a Ryder Cup-style format but in truth it has an exhibition feel – a format which tennis fans love.
It’s hard to put a timeframe on how much longer Federer or Nadal will play on for and that’s why so many people cherish the chance to see them – even if they are on the same side of the net for Team Europe.
Lovers of the game more often than not love their legends and rivalries from yesteryear over what’s happening in the modern era.
The idea of John McEnroe shouting the odds against the Swiss and Spaniard from the touchline is great. Who cares if the matches aren’t all serious? Let’s enjoy the spectacle.
Laver Cup:— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) September 9, 2016
- 6 players in each team
- 4 qualify on ranking after Wimbledon
- 2 captain's picks
- 12 matches (9 singles, 3 dubs) over 3 days
And the fact this tournament adds to an already over-subscribed calendar is neither here nor there.
Take Novak Djokovic. Despite being a terrific champion, his achievements have never received the same adulation as Federer or Nadal but the world No1 hinted he wants to be involved. It proves the lure for top players of playing alongside and under legendary captains far outweighs the hassle of a few extra first-class flights.
Federer’s management company is the main driving force behind the Laver Cup and he, along with Nadal, may feel their pulling power and credibility is such they can host this event on their own terms, unlike the IPTL.
It’s also nice to properly acknowledge Laver’s achievements, a man who would have won more than 11 major titles had he not been banned by the grand slams for five years prior to the Open Era.
And with the US Tennis Association already giving its blessing to host the second edition in 2018, I think it will grow and is here to stay.
Those exhibitions just keep popping up, on the calendar don’t they?
And then they refuse to promote themselves as exhibitions, meaning the organisers are asking us to take those tennis events seriously, which then prompts us to evaluate them accordingly.
This three-day Ryder Cup-like event will pit a team representing Europe against a team representing the ‘Rest of the World’. It is backed by Tennis Australia and the USTA, and created by Team8, the agency founded by Roger Federer and his longtime agent Tony Godsick.
Federer and Nadal are committed to playing next year with John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg acting as team captains. With huge names and organisations involved, you’d imagine this event will be a success, but I’m not crazy about the idea.
While it is clear from other exhibitions like the IPTL that players and fans are enjoying the concept of seeing their favourite players compete together as team-mates, the Laver Cup’s idea of pitting Europe against the Rest of the World has a very antiquated sting to it.
The Ryder Cup, after which this is modelled, was created in the 1920s. In today’s world of globalisation, why is tennis making this arbitrary divide? Another important question is: Why is this event discarding women?
The timing of the event comes two weeks after the US Open and one week after Davis Cup which might force some players to choose between contesting it and playing for their country. In a packed calendar that is a continuous topic of debate amongst players, another money-making scheme has appeared.
If Federer and Nadal are so excited about being team-mates, why don’t they just play doubles together at any ATP event during the year?
Tennis is too traditional and it is quite resistant to new ideas, and while I welcome change in the sport, why not introduce these changes to the actual tours rather than resort to exhibitions?