Had they been pushed back any more, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Saketh Myneni would have found themselves on the courtside VIP stands. Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer were not just hitting the ball with venom – which the Indian duo found it hard to control on the fast Delhi Lawn Tennis Association court – but they kept it low and flat.
To give themselves more time to reach the ball and keep it in play, the Indians needed to stay as far from the baseline as possible. With the ball darting around them, they kept backtracking. But after a point, it was futile. Actually, the Indians were blown off the court by the Spaniards who were too powerful, too fast and, at the end of Day 1, 2-0 up. One more win on Saturday, against the India’s doubles pair of Leander Paes and Myneni, will see the visitors seal the World Cup playoff tie.
Credit where due, though. Ramanathan played his heart out. The world no.203 was warming up on the outside court when he was informed that his opponent for the first rubber had changed. For the last 24 hours, he had been psyching himself up for a encounter with Rafael Nadal. Now, he was up against another left hander in Lopez.
For a moment, it lifted his spirits. “I thought I could make a match out of it,” he said. But he managed to remain realistic as well. “Eventually, both of them are top 50 players so there wasn’t much difference in terms of quality of the opponents, you know. It was going to be tough anyway.”
The 21-year-old dug deep into his reserves and gave everything he had. He won a set, which was an ideal reward for his effort. But his best wasn’t even close to threatening Lopez, who controlled for most of the tie. Lopez won 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-1 in a tie that last two hours and 25 minutes but it was more comfortable than what the score line suggests.
Lopez served big. On important points, he was flawless. Apart from the only time he was broken – in the eighth game of third set – Lopez’s serve was never under threat. Ramanathan, in fact, couldn’t even earn a break point.
The Indian, too, dished out some big serves. But they paled in comparison to his opponent. And Lopez got the breaks whenever he desired in the first two sets, doing enough to win them with ease.
Ramanathan, extremely shy off court, burst to life on it in the third. He got the crowd to get behind him and played some remarkable points. The forehand winner to break Lopez in the third set was one of several points which left Lopez – and the Spanish bench – applauding.
It was an error-strewn performance, nevertheless. Ramanathan tried to serve and volley throughout the match – to ‘cover his cross-court shots’. But he couldn’t control them – his returns either flying wide or finding the net. One a few occasions when he got it right, Lopez would come up with delightful passing winners.
“The speed of the ball when he hit was too much. The pressure he puts on serve … ball takes off from racket. I couldn’t control the return,” Ramanathan confessed. “But I played well. Matches like these will help me.”
Myneni, meanwhile, couldn’t pose any threat to Ferrer. India’s top ranked player was beaten 1-6 2-6 1-6. Ferrer returns were more powerful than Lopez’s. On several occasions, Myneni would just give up and applaud. He toyed with the 137-ranked Indian in the one-hour 27-minute match.
The gulf between the two players apparent. The first day of the playoff tie followed its script. It’s up to Paes and Myneni, now, to pull off an upset and keep India alive in the tie.
Del Potro beat Murray in epic
Glasgow: Juan Martin del Potro ended Andy Murray’s 14-match winning streak in the Davis Cup, coming through a grueling five-setter to give Argentina a 1-0 lead over titleholder Britain in the semifinals on Friday.
Del Potro won 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 in 5 hours, 7 minutes to gain a measure of revenge after losing the Olympic final to Murray in Rio de Janeiro last month.
Being taken the distance was exactly what Murray didn’t need at the end of his long summer of tennis in which he won both the Wimbledon and Olympic titles for the second time. He looked almost out on his feet at times in an energy-sapping final set, and couldn’t handle the barrage of forehand shots by the rejuvenated Del Potro.
Del Potro gained the crucial break in the fifth set at the third opportunity, reaching Murray’s volley with a forehand winner down the line to go 4-3 ahead, and he served out for the match, clinching victory with an ace and a big growl. Murray had never previously lost a home singles match in the Davis Cup. Argentina is playing its 11th Davis Cup semifinal in 15 years. The south American country has never won the team event, finishing runner-up in 1981, 2006, 2008, and 2011. Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, is a force in tennis once again after returning from three wrist operations that nearly ruined his career. He is Argentina’s top player but is ranked a lowly No. 64 on his comeback trail, meaning he had to play Murray in the opening match. AP