It’s still tough to wrap the mind around the idea that this Spanish team is vying to be part of the upper echelons of world tennis. The line-up of Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez could face Great Britain tomorrow and give the defending champions a run for their money.
Therefore, on paper, Spain’s Davis Cup tie against India appears a mismatch of epic proportions. The hosts last featured in the World Group five years ago, and are riddled with an unsettled combination.
But there’s a reason behind Nadal labelling the tie a “confrontation”.
Though Spain have dominated the competition in the recent past, winning the title five times, they have resided in the European/Africa zone since losing their last World Group tie 1-4 against Germany in 2014.
During the pre-draw press conference, Nadal noted that the team has “lost matches that we should have won” and is taking India seriously.
In the presence of one of the sport’s all-time greats, it is easier to overlook the diminutive Ferrer. The perennial nearly man of tennis has been arguably better than Nadal, with a 25-4 win-loss record almost matching the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s 26-5.
In fact, the 34-year-old has been the driving force behind Spain’s most successful era, while Nadal skipped the away ties in Belarus (2006), Switzerland and USA (2007), Argentina (2008), France (2010), USA (2011), Czech Republic (2012) and Canada (2013). He has never played in a tie outside Europe.
But the past year has been frustrating for Ferrer, who has been plagued with one injury after another. Lauded for his longevity and an uncanny ability to stay injury-free, Ferrer withdrew from Wimbledon last year and has since struggled for form, failing to win a title since the Ersta Bank Open in Vienna last October.
Ferrer was again sidelined with a calf injury in April, and as it stands, doesn’t want to key himself in for singles duty on Friday.
Ferrer said, “First of all, I don’t know if I’ll play. If I have a chance, I would look to do my best. We have the rankings but these are different conditions and it’s my first time.”
One would do well to take his words with more than a pinch of salt. After all, the tenacious Ferrer is known for his fighting spirit. But if the visitors decide to rest Ferrer, they do have an option in world No 26 Feliciano Lopez.
However, the intense practice sessions have showed that a change seems unlikely. All four players of the team have spent enough time on the court to gauge the conditions well.
Raucous home support though remains a factor, and Nadal has made note of that. “We are sure that the crowd will be great, but we don’t expect the Indians to be supporting us. I believe they will be very respectful towards us,” he said on Tuesday.
With the matches at night and entry free, a packed house is guaranteed. But if the fan following for Nadal at practice is anything to go by, the crowd support, unlike the tie, doesn’t seem one-sided at all.