New Delhi: A gritty Ramkumar Ramanathan showed stomach for fight despite his limitations against a much-superior rival even as Feliciano Lopez, playing in place of Rafael Nadal, handed Spain a 1-0 lead by winning the opening singles tie of the Davis Cup World Group Play-off tie against India here, on Friday.
The young Indian was graceful in a 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6 defeat against world number 26 Lopez in the match that lasted two hours and 26 minutes.
Ramkumar, egged on by the capacity crowd, gave it his all, but it was not enough to worry his mighty opponent, who is a reigning French Open doubles champion along with compatriot Marc Lopez.
The 4000-strong crowd backed 203-ranked Ramkumar with the tunes of a band team and he certainly gave them a few moments to cheer and celebrate.
However, the pulling out of Nadal from the match due to an upset stomach must have left the fans disappointed.
The whole build up to the tie was focused on Nadal as tennis fans had hoped to see the 14-time Grand Slam champion in action.
Saketh Myneni, ranked 137, will now clash with David Ferrer in the second singles.
There was no doubt about the superiority of left-handed Lopez as he controlled the proceedings with ease. Ramkumar did try to fight it out but the Spaniard always had the match in his iron grip.
"I knew it was a good match, he is a great fighter, I was expecting such a match. It is humid but we tried to hang in and gave my side the point," Lopez said.
"Guys thank you," Ramkumar said acknowledging the support he got from the fans.
"I was trying every point, giving my best. Unfortunately could not win. Feli (Lopez) played solid, lots of first serves in."
Lopez did not have to exert much to put ahead his side, which desperately wants to reclaim its place in the World Group after their relegation in January 2014.
Ramkumar did take the third set from his rival, but Lopez changed gears easily and sealed the issue with his dominating game in the fourth set.
Lopez found passing winners with relative ease if Ramkumar rushed to the net, and without fuss dictated the rallies.
All that the Indian could do was fight hard which he did as an upset from him was not expected....