World No. 26 Feliciano Lopez today beat India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to take Spain up 1-0 in the teams' Davis Cup tie in New Delhi, India in the World Group playoff stage.
Lopez came on as a last-minute replacement for World No. 4 Rafael Nadal, who had been due to open proceedings here against Ramanathan; Nadal pulled out due to illness, leaving Lopez to take up the mantle.
Most would have expected a whitewash for the 22-year-old Ramanathan, but the young player put up a spirited fight today to scalp a set off the significantly more experienced Lopez here today. Although he has been more of a baseliner, the Indian exhibited some great serve-and-volley skill today, rushing the net to make shots off the racquet of the quick Spaniard.
Lopez, known for his powerful one-handed backhand, put in some mammoth slices and rushed the net himself – with his young rival even mimicking him in some moments, attempting the backhand slice Lopez has come to be associated with.
Given he is fresh off a US Open semi-final finish, most would have expected Lopez to finish this one in straight sets. Pushed by his young rival, Lopez looked tired at some points during the set, cramping and receiving pep talks from Spanish captain and Grand Slam winner Conchita Martinez at regular intervals.
Encouraged by Leander Paes and team captain Anand Amritraj, Ramanathan staved off break points at crucial intervals, and like a pro, the young player played the crowd in Delhi to full advantage as he pointed and cheered each of his own points, with an enthusiastic crowd contributing to the action.
The next tie will see India’s top-ranked Singles player Saketh Myneni take on David Ferrer.