CHENNAI: The Davis Cup is unlike any other tournament in tennis. In a sport where individual excellence is considered paramount, it’s interesting to note the kind of reactions the premier team competition elicits from players — great or otherwise. Seeing superstars like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray reduced to tears upon getting their hands on the coveted trophy is worth seeing to believe.
But the path to glory is arduous, to say the least. There are plenty of minor nations waiting to pounce on the slightest of complacency.
The love of country inspires certain players more than others, which in turn results in some of the most surprising results. Favourites are left picking up the pieces while underdogs rejoice in the chaos.
The disarmingly humble Nadal and the rest of the Spanish armada — David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez — are looking to set right what went wrong two years back, when they lost to unfancied Brazil at the same stage. Against India, they don’t want to make similar mistakes. “It is always difficult to play someone in front of their home crowd. The conditions are dangerous. The Davis Cup is always a special thing. In the past, we lost a couple of confrontations where we were favourites and in a good position to win. So we have maximum respect for all our opponents,” Nadal told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“Our immediate target is to return to the World Group. Spain has been out of the World Group for a couple of years and we would like to be back there. We have squandered opportunities in the past to be in the World Group and this time, we are hoping that we can achieve our goal,” he added.
Even though five-time champions Spain seem a tad overprepared — they’d have been favourites even without the staggering line-up — it’s this quality that they believe will guide them back to where they deserve to be. “I think that a team like Spain should be in the World Group and that is why we are here. I have been playing in the Davis Cup since I was 17. It is a special feeling to represent one’s country and there have been some great moments. We have enjoyed some great success. It is always a special feeling to play for your country,” Nadal continued.
Spain’s non-playing captain Conchita Martinez, who also doubles up as the Fed Cup skipper, opined that while the conditions in the capital are quite tough, the visitors are ready for the challenge. “It’s very humid and quite hot but we will play at a time when the heat will be down a bit. The surface is playing okay and we have time to get used to it,” Martinez said. “As for our return to the World Group, I don’t think there’s anxiety in the team. We are ready to win this tie and, hopefully, we will be back in the World Group. That is our ambition.”