Lopez and Ferrer give Spain a 2-0 lead on opening day

Rafael Nadal filled the R.K. Khanna Stadium to capacity, but had to pull out from the opening singles rubber of Spain’s Davis Cup World Group play-off match against India to protect his injured wrist. Playing in the World No. 4’s place, Feliciano Lopez was efficient enough — though he slipped a bit — in beating Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Feliciano Lopezplayed well within himself, doing just enough to stay ahead and, though he dropped the third set, came back strongly to clinch the opening rubber. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Later, Saketh Myneni was classy in patches but was not allowed to stay on court for long by the fluent David Ferrer, who cruised to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 victory to put the visitors 2-0 ahead on Friday.

It will be interesting to see if Spain opts to field the Olympic gold winning duo of Nadal and Marc Lopez in the doubles against Leander Paes and, possibly, Myneni.

Though he had withdrawn to rest his wrist, Nadal did have a training stint, during the first part of the second singles rubber.

Twitter was abuzz with news of Nadal being replaced for the first rubber, with Spain changing its nomination an hour before the first rubber, but the stadium was packed before the first point was played this evening.

A true team player, Nadal stayed glued to his seat on the sidelines, cheering on his team-mate, the World No. 26, right through the battle that lasted two hours and 26 minutes during the course of which the crowd even called out to him in desperation at times.

Lopez stepped up his game whenever required and had the match in control even though Ramkumar managed to turn the third set around with a break of serve in the eighth game.

Lopez started on low gear, playing sharp enough to break serve, in the fifth game of the first set and the first game of the second, to stay on course for an easy win.

Ramkumar, who kept challenging a lot of the calls but without much success, played with a lot more purpose and conviction in the third set, especially after he took a medical time-out after five games.

He was particularly charged up in the eighth game as he rallied briskly to force two break-points. Lopez saved those emphatically, but Ramkumar had a fortuitous point as his slice clipped the net-cord to set up a third break-point.

Ramkumar won the break after a rally on the next point to bring the crowd alive. Ramkumar then did exceptionally well to close out the set in the following game.

The home team’s upswing did not continue, though, as Lopez — struggling a bit with the humidity — put his game together to race

away with the first three games of the fourth set, dropping two points in all.

That took the sting away from Ramkumar’s challenge, and he managed to win only a token game after that, surviving a break-point in the fourth game.

Myneni had his moments when he made Ferrer scamper around the court, but could not sustain those spells for long; Ferrer was just too good.

It was quality tennis, never mind the fact that the 14-time Grand Slam champion did not take the court, as the home team did its best to make sure it was not entirely one-sided.

The result: India trails Spain 0-2 (Ramkumar Ramanathan lost to Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1; Saketh Myneni lost to David Ferrer 6-1, 6-2, 6-1).