After a last-minute pullout from the opening singles rubber of the Davis Cup tie against India on Friday, Rafael Nadal is set to play in Saturday’s doubles with Marc Lopez against India’s Leander Paes and Saketh Myneni. Down 2-0 after the singles action , India must win the doubles to stay alive in the World Group Playoff tie.
Nadal was seen practising with Marc, with whom he won a doubles gold medal in last month’s Rio Olympics, a few hours before the match. That coupled with the sight of Feliciano sitting easy behind the court and watching the proceedings only strengthened the possibility that Nadal would indeed take to the court for the doubles. The change in lineup was later confirmed on the Davis Cup website.
There was disappointment in store for the thousands who thronged the RK Khanna Tennis stadium on Friday to catch the 14-time Grand Slam champion in action. The world No 4 pulled out of the opening rubber against Ramkumar Ramanathan. It was their misfortune that Nadal complained, reportedly about a suspect wrist/stomach upset , and withdrew with the rules allowing for a change in the lineup till an hour before the start of the match.
However, according to his replacement Feliciano Lopez, who won 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in two hours, 25 minutes, it wasn’t a last-minute decision.
“We knew during the week that there might be a possibility that I’m going to play instead of Rafa, who was not sure if he was going to be ready for Friday,” said Feliciano.
Feliciano confirmed “there is nothing wrong with the stomach. Rafa is okay.” Instead, it was the same wrist trouble that has long been the bane for Nadal. “He was struggling with the wrist. He’s okay but he did not want to take the risk,” Feliciano said. “It’s nothing serious. He was playing at the US Open with the same problem. It was painful from what I heard from him.”
However, Spanish captain Conchita Martinez later said that it is “definitely the stomach.”
As for when the decision to replace Nadal was made, Feliciano said, “We spoke (Thursday) night. Till the last moment Rafa was hitting so we didn’t know 100 per cent,” said Feliciano. He also hinted at the possibility of Nadal playing doubles by adding, “We spoke with the captain and we decided that Friday I will be playing. Now, tomorrow it might be Rafa with Marc (Lopez) or Marc with me. These people were very excited that Rafa would show up. We are confident. There’s a good chance that he will play.”
Nadal playing the doubles could also be a bit of a tactical decision with the Spaniards putting their strongest weapon to take on India’s most potent Davis Cup player of all time, Leander Paes, who needs just one more doubles victory to get past Italian Nicola Pietrangeli. Both are tied with 42 doubles wins in the list of all-time great players.