The long serpentine lines snaking around the tennis stadium here proved just what one man with star power can do. They were coming to see Rafael Nadal and the huge numbers are a reflection of the evolving sports fans in the country – put the best on display and they will flock.
It was their misfortune that Nadal complained 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.
That Nadal was later seen grunting away at a practice court serving big, does make one skeptical about the whole deal but then perhaps the world number four just didn’t think his services would be required to tame Ramkumar Ramanathan. The Indian was beaten 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in two hours and 25 minutes by Feliciano Lopez (world rank 26) which saw him play inspired tennis in patches even as the Spaniard struggled with the humidity.
Ramkumar (ranked 203) had a super opportunity to make his mark as fate and Spanish confidence seemed to have given him an opponent who is nowhere near as harsh a batterer of the tennis ball as his more illustrious teammate. With Lopez looking like the conditions were not really to his liking, there were moments when the crowd and the country could have hoped for the conditions to do what Ramkumar alone was incapable of.
However, when the Indian called in the physio early in the third set to get his right leg looked at it appeared that things were not looking up. But it seemed to be Lopez who was faltering and with Ramkumar breaking him in the eighth game of third and then proceeding to serve out the set, the packed stadium may well have felt justified in presuming that despite Nadal’s no-show, the evening may still be salvaged. However, whatever aid the conditions give, the crux of the matter is that the Indian has to be physically able to outlast the foreigner. Ramkumar wasn’t up to that and Lopez shifted gears in the fourth set to steam away.
Nadal may play
Later Lopez told reporters that Nadal had wrist issues. He however did hint that Nadal may well turn out for the doubles tie. Later captain Conchita Martinez said that Nadal had a stomach upset. It’s clear that the Spanish camp is peddling out excuses for why Nadal did not play on Friday.
That may well mean the Spaniards left their strongest weapon to take on our most potent Davis Cup player of all time, Leander Paes. The veteran 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. That, however, may stay more aspiration than anything else if Nadal steps on court.
Swift and swifter
David Ferrer (13) is all of 5’9”. Indian automobile giant Maruti would do well to hire him as a brand ambassador. For this man is nothing else if not swift. His strength is that incredible foot speed that sees him take the ball early and keep on doing it. That forces the pace to a level that makes the opponent either step up his own game or be caught flailing. Sakth Myneni (137) was caught wanting in quickness and Ferrer relentlessly ground out a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 win.
There isn’t much to say about the match except that the Spaniard was overwhelmingly dominant. So, one won’t.