Karan Rastogi squared off against Rafael Nadal at the Nungambakkam Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, but it had nothing to do with flashy forehands and winning returns.
A day before their second round clash at the Chennai Open, Rastogi and Nadal played cricket at the Centre Court, with K. Srikkanth offering tips. After the 10-minute fun-match, Nadal exclaimed: “I like this game and I would like to play it again. In Spain, cricket is not very popular, however I have heard a lot about it in Australia. I believe cricket is very big in India and I am honoured to get playing tips from a cricket legend like Srikkanth.”
Nadal batted and Karan bowled, with the Spaniard whacking a couple of deliveries into the stands. Once the fun part was over, Rastogi got down to serious business, training hard for Thursday’s match against Nadal. After training on the outside courts, 20-year-old Rastogi got to spar on Centre Court, with coach Sanjay Poddar watching closely.
Four days back, when Rastogi flew in for the tournament, he was looking for practice partners. On Wednesday, he got Sunil Kumar Sipaeya to spar with him. “I am simply excited about playing Nadal, I am not tense at all,” Rastogi told HT.
“I think my confidence level is high. So even if lose 6-0, 6-0, I will gain a lot from this match,” he said. More importantly, Rastogi will have to come to terms with Nadalmania. Rastogi vaguely remembers playing Nadal once before — in the under-14 World Team Cup. “I remember it was a left-hander from Spain and he hit heavy balls. I do think it was Nadal,” said Rastogi, quickly adding, “Please confirm it.”
If six years back Nadal was hitting heavy balls, one can imagine the artillery Rastogi will face on Thursday. “It is just a tennis match and I have nothing to lose,” he said.