It's the opening day of play at the RK Khanna Tennis Stadium as Spain take on India in the World Group Stage at the Davis Cup in the first two singles rubbers today. Spain have five Davis Cup titles and India none, and given the strength of the Spanish squad, it may well seem to be a whitewash for the hosts, India, across the three-day tie.
Former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will be part of the first tie, taking on India's singles-playing youngster Ramkumar Ramanathan. Ramanathan, ranked 203 on the ATP singles circuit, made his career-highest ranking this year, hitting the top 200 at 196th, although he has since dropped.
Ramanathan, who is mostly active on the ATP Challenger circuit, has had a couple of fair finishes this year. He kicked off his 2016 with a quarter-final at the Chennai Open, India's only ATP World Tour Event.
21-year-old Ramanathan finished in the quarter-finals of the event, with a three-set loss to Briton Aljaz Bedene, a top-50 player. Ramanathan took the Briton to a tiebreak in the set before winning it, so he has had flashes of brilliance against significantly higher-ranked players.
Ramkumar Ramanathan and 2016 Grand Slams
Still a rookie on the circuit, Ramanathan has not had much success at Grand Slams this year. Playing qualifying at each of this year’s Grand Slams, Ramanathan lost out in Round 1 of qualifying at the Australian Open to compatriot Saketh Myneni, who has himself had quite a strong year.
Ramanathan lost to the lower-ranked Matthew Barton of Australia at the qualifiers for the French Open, but then came back fairly well at Wimbledon and despite a straight-sets loss at qualifying there, took his rival, the higher-ranked Daniel Brands of Germany, to a tiebreak in both sets.
He then got breadsticked by Italy’s Alessandro Giannessi at the US Open in Round 1 of qualifying this year, with the 423rd- ranked Giannessi going on to tax eventual champion Stan Wawrinka in the main draw.
Ramanathan and the Davis Cup
1994-born Ramanathan made his Davis Cup debut this year, participating in India's tie against South Korea at the Round Robin stage in Chandigarh; of his two singles ties, Ramanathan won one – beating 423rd-ranked Seong-chan Hong in a laboured four-setter, and losing to 626th-ranked Yong-Kyu Lim in three.
Interestingly, Ramanathans strongest surface is one he shares with his rival today - although it would be an understatement to say they have had varying levels of success.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets
India's top-ranked singles player, Saketh Myneni will take on World No. 13 David Ferrer in the second singles rubber today. Myneni is on a strong year in his tennis career, and made the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time this year at the US Open. Although he lost to his opening rival, Czech ace Jiri Vesely, Myneni put up more than a spirited fight to take his rival to five sets.
28-year-old Myneni hit his own career-highest rank of 113th this year, and at 119th currently, had his career-best performance -at the Grand Slam level, which will no doubt stand him in good stead going into today's tie against the experienced David Ferrer.
Ferrer, ranked 13th on the ATP singles standings, is one of Spain’s most experienced Davis Cup campaigners, having been on the squad for three of their five title wins. In the earlier part of his career, Ferrer was considered, like many of Spain’s best players, a clay court specialist, with over a 50% win rate on that surface.
In more recent years, the 34-year-old has done exceedingly well on hard courts, however, having not only won a number of titles at every level, but reaching the semi-finals of both hard-court Grand Slams – the Australian Open and the US Open – twice each.
Given that the India-Spain tie will also be played on hard courts, while Myneni tends to favour the speedier grass surface, this will likely translate into a win for the experienced Spaniard.
Prediction: David Ferrer to win in four sets