NEW DELHI: The stands are likely to be packed to the rafters as Rafael Nadal will kick off the Davis Cup World Group Playoffs versus India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan at the RK Khanna Stadium here at 5 pm on Friday. The ensuing rubber will pit Saketh Myneni against David Ferrer. A moment of silence ought to be the order of the day!
Apt jokes aside, it’s really hard to expect anything other than a 0-2 deficit at the end of Day One. Both Ramkumar and Myneni have been making strides, the former is ranked just outside the top 200 and the latter is presently India No 1, but they’re no match for the might of Spain. They have brought three excellent singles players: Nadal is ranked in the top 5, Ferrer is seated in the top 15 and Feliciano Lopez — keyed in for just the doubles rubber — is nestled in the top 25. With a team like that, they could beat India blindfolded (that’s probably going too far).
Even in the practice sessions, the visitors look like men on a mission. All this is best punctuated by the furious groundstrokes accompanied by endless grunts. It’s a sight to behold to fully appreciate.
Nonetheless, Ramkumar and Myneni seem to have the right sort of attitude in the face of an impending onslaught. “It’s a very exciting moment for me and it’ll help me gauge where I stand,” the former opined. “The only thing we’re hoping to do is keep it as competitive as possible,” the latter added.
Even fans know it’s likely to be a blowout, but Nadal’s presence seems to soothe all the feelings of any ill-will that might have crept up otherwise. “He’s my all-time favourite,” a young autograph collector from Assam said. “We’ve only come here to watch him in action, it’s been a while,” an elderly couple from Tamil Nadu mentioned.
Nadal, meanwhile, had to field questions about the recent leak of Serena and Venus Williams’ private WADA details. The 14-time Grand Slam champion wouldn’t be drawn too much into the issue, but reiterated that the anti-doping programme in tennis is in a good place. “All I can say is I believe in anti-doping control and the values of the sport in general and outside of that, people who don’t do the right thing, 100 per cent they don’t deserve to be competing in the world of sport,” he began.
“We can’t go all the time creating negativity about sport in general. Sport should be clean and look clean. The real thing is we have an anti-doping programme and we believe in it. What happened (the leak) is terrible, but at the same time we can’t believe and follow things that fall outside the anti-doping programme.”
The left-hander also said it’s hard to adhere to all the anti-doping regulations, he has been a vociferous critic over the whereabouts clause for years, but that it’s because of such measures that he believes in the programme. “I cannot say something that I don’t have information about, but I know how harrowing the programme is. We have to commit to saying every single day of the year where we are, we have to respect that to have the anti-doping control,” Nadal signed off.