India take on Spain in the world group playoff stage at the 2016 Davis Cup, and with the first two singles ties completed yesterday, we’re now at the doubles.
Day 1 saw both Indian singles aspirants – Ramkumar Ramanathan and experienced campaigner Saketh Myneni tumble in their respective matches against World No. 26 Feliciano Lopez and No. 13 David Ferrer; Lopez had come on in place of Rafael Nadal, who took ill a few hours prior to the match.
While Ramanathan put up a spirited fight against Lopez to scalp a set off his veteran Spanish rival, Myneni tumbled in quick straight sets to the powerful Ferrer.
Today, we will see the doubles tie played between two powerful teams. Marc and Feliciano Lopez have long been doubles partners, winning the French Open this year; they have also been Australian Open semi-finalists and US Open finalists.
Marc Lopez is also high on momentum, having won gold with doubles ace Rafael Nadal at the recently-concluded Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Feliciano and Marc also won the title in Doha prior to their victory at Roland Garros, and both are experienced campaigners at the Davis Cup as well.
While Feliciano Lopez is left-handed, Marc is right-handed; both have incredibly strong backhands they are famed for, a backhand Feliciano put on full display as he sliced his way to victory over Ramkumar Ramanathan. India will be represented in the doubles by two right-handed players, which will not give them the variation they might otherwise require, especially against the arsenal of the powerful Spanish pair.
That said, India’s side does feature a man who is considered one of the greatest exponents of the doubles game. Leander Paes has had immense success in the doubles earlier on in his career and has now enjoyed a significant resurgence in the mixed doubles, where he is paired with Martina Hingis.
Paes, who tends to specialise in the serve-and-volley, can also manage good baseline play, but with two Spanish rivals will have to combat some strong service from the baseline; all things considered, however, Feliciano did a fine job of rushing the net at his match against Ramanathan.
Myneni, who has struggled with his endurance recently despite having put up a strong showing at the US Open, is more a singles player but has been active on the ATP Challenger tour in the doubles.
However, given that it is the Challenger circuit, it is unlikely the 28-year-old would have been up against players of the calibre of the Lopez-Lopez combine before. Here, the experience and advice of Leander Paes will be invaluable in guiding the Indian juggernaut.
Although Paes can be a strong power-hitter, he has not been in form in the men’s doubles, while both Spanish players are fresh off winning Grand Slams and Olympic gold.
With Spain already leading 2-0, it appears that this tie will give the opportunity to make it 3-0.
Prediction: Spain to win in straight sets