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Rafael Nadal has maintained his strong and hard-line stance on doping in sports, especially tennis, in light of the recent reports of Russian hackers ‘Fancy Bears’ breaching World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) data to reveal Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Petra Kvitova have been using Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) drugs which are part of the banned substances list of WADA. The claims come at a time when many Russian athletes were not allowed to compete at the Rio Olympics and the entire Paralympic contingent was barred from competing in lieu of reports of systematic doping in the Russian sport.
Asked to comment on the data breach, Nadal who is a strong advocate of clean sport and someone who has said in the past that his medical data can be made public after allegations had surfaced that the 14-time Grand Slam winner had doped.
“Sport should be clean and look clean, the real thing is we have anti-doping programme in place and we believe in it. What happened is terrible news, we cannot believe the team which is outside our anti-doping programme. We believe that we have best anti-doping programme possible. It tries to be better and better,” said Rafa during the Davis Cup draw where he plays Ramkumar Ramanathan of India in the opening rubber.
“All the sportspersons who believe in the real spirit of the game, want to compete against rest of the sportspersons who are also clean. I believe in the anti-doping programme 100 per cent. Outside that, I can’t comment. We have to respect one hour of every single day to have the anti-doping control. I believe in the values of the game in general. If people are not doing right things, they don’t deserve to be part of the world of sport,” he added.
India are hosting Spain in a monumental ask in the World Group Playoff with a depleted side owing to injuries which has seen Yuki Bhambri, Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna all sidelined. Spain, on the other hand, are the overwhelming favourites and in order to get back in the World Group, they have got the big guns to the hot and humid conditions of the capital – even if the matches are starting at the evening hours.
Nadal vows to not take the Indian team easy. “It’s going to be tough for everybody. It’s an important contest for all of us. Looking to come back to the World Group. At the same time we are playing in difficult conditions, it’s very humid, very warm. In terms of names and rankings, we are favourites.”
“At the same time, the Indian players have chosen the condition, the home advantage belongs to the home side. We are here to try our best form the beginning. Maximum respect to the Indian team, they are going to be the tough one. Ready for the action,” he said on behalf of the entire Spanish side comprising David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez.
Ramkumar Ramanathan excited to open against Rafa
Ramkumar will open proceedings for India in the singles rubber against Nadal on Friday evening and the youngster claims he is excited for the contest and not nervous for the daunting task ahead of him. “I am really excited to play one of the best players of all time. We have to keep the first few games close and play some aggressive tennis. I need to play with a lot of forehand and attack his backhand, play as deep as possible and ofcouse serve well. I am ready to play my heart out,” said the 21-year-old.
Saketh Myneni, who plays the second rubber against a forever fighting David Ferrer, said all jokes aside, the team would try and put its strong foot forward when the play begins. He acknowledged that India are the underdogs but with the home support, the team will look to give a fight. “We are going as underdogs and we have to find a way to do well, put everything on the line and bleed blue on the court. If we can finish 1-1 after day 1, we will have a good chance. So everything depends on first day.”
In terms of head-to-head, India and Spain have playued each other thrice thrice in the Davis Cup with the Spaniards leading 2-1. However, the last time India played Spain was back in 1965 when they lost the away tie 2-3.