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Davis Cup: Feliciano Lopez proves there’s more to Spain than Rafael Nadal

tennis Updated: Sep 17, 2016 12:25 IST
Gaurav Bhatt
Feliciano Lopez

Spain’s Feliciano Lopez plays a shot in his Davis Cup men's tie against India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan.(AP Photo)

Around 3,500 players feature in the ATP and WTA rankings. A little more than one per cent get their hands on the silverware.

If you’re not in the top 10 (or top 200 for a nation like India), your ever-changing ranking is of academic interest.

Not surprisingly then, when Feliciano Lopez replaced Rafael Nadal in Friday’s opening rubber, India’s hopes were raised ever so slightly. After all, the only similarity between the two Spaniards is their left-handedness. On paper, Feliciano, at world No 26, is no match to Nadal’s 4th rank.

Feliciano himself hasn’t done his reputation any good. Since turning professional in 1997, he has been part of almost 400 tournaments, but has five singles titles to show for; four ATP 250 and one 500.

Not many titles

While he won July’s Swiss Open on clay, his last singles title on hardcourt came at the now-defunct 250 SA Open, six years ago. In doubles, two of his three titles (including the French Open with Marc Lopez) have come this year. And despite being part of Spain’s most successful Davis Cup era, with four titles to his name, Feliciano has had a dubious win-loss record (5-8) in singles.

So, when he took the court against India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan on Friday, though nobody expected him to falter, everyone certainly hoped he would. And for the first fifteen minutes, it looked as if that might just happen. Ramkumar lost just one point in his first two service games while pushed the Spaniard to deuce in his two. However it was Lopez who drew first blood.

The difference between a youngster trying to make the transition to the big league and a journeyman who’s been there for years came to the fore in the fifth game.

The score was 15-30 on Ramanathan’s serve, when Feliciano rushed in after his return. The Indian’s hurried forehand struck the net. Ramkumar saved the subsequent two break points, but conceded a third after deuce.

Then Ramanathan attempted to run in, but Feliciano passed him with ease to earn the first break. Despite a spirited show from the Indian, it was Feliciano’s clever ploy of rushing, coupled with his big serve and experience, which tipped the tie in his favour.

It goes on to prove that there’s more to the Spanish Armada than Nadal. One would do well to see Feliciano and Marc Lopez quietly practice away from the limelight, while they’re in town. Who knows, maybe you’d get one of those evasive selfies too.