New Delhi: It will be an uphill battle for India against Spain in the Davis Cup World Group play-off at home next weekend. The hosts’ task got harder on Tuesday when 14-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal was named in the Spain team.
“The return of Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer is the big news for the Spanish team which will travel to India for the play-off,” the Spanish tennis federation announced on Tuesday.
Fifth-ranked Nadal, who was upset by France’s Lucas Pouille in the US Open on Sunday, will be joined by world no. 13 David Ferrer for singles duty with Feliciano Lopez (world no. 18) and Marc Lopez (world no. 19 in doubles) slated for the doubles tie.
“Spain are one of the top three teams in the world and it is very unlucky that we have been drawn against them. Yuki Bhambri was my wish to play in this tie but it is not possible as he is still not fully fit,” India’s Davis Cup captain Anand
Amritraj told this newspaper from Los Angeles on Tuesday.
“Against a team that has Nadal and Ferrer, we need one singles player in the top 50 and one in the top 100 of the world rankings, but unfortunately we don’t have such options,” Amritraj added.
“To become a regular World Group team you need players of that calibre.”
The home team will be without their two top singles players — Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman — as they are recovering from injury.
Saketh Myneni (143) and Ramkumar Ramnathan (206) will lead the hosts’ challenge in the singles while veterans Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna will play the doubles.
“Our best chance is in the doubles, but even in that, Spain are very tough. If Paes and Bopanna play, they will have to do a lot better than they did against the Czech Republic last September, and better than they did at the Rio Olympics,” Amritraj said.
“The singles will be an uphill battle, and both our boys will have to play their absolute best to make a match of it. The strategy would be to try to win one singles on the first day, which will not be easy,” he added.
Amritraj also asserted that playing on grass would be his first choice. “Ideally, I would have preferred to play on grass, but that was not available to us for this tie. Delhi was the next best choice,” he remarked.
The India team start practice in Delhi from Sunday. The captain was disappointed with the performance at the Rio Olympics.
“It’s really a shame that we did not win a medal in the mixed when Rohan and Sania (Mirza) were so close. The men’s doubles was a first round loss, so no chance there. Same with the women’s doubles. All in all, I’m sure very disappointing for the players, the Indian public and me as well,” he added....