Indian coach Zeeshan Ali feels that hosting Spain in the ongoing Davis Cup World Group Play-off tie with the likes of Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer playing in front of Indian crowds will provide a massive boost to tennis in the country.
Indian singles players Ramkumar Ramanathan and Saketh Myneni fought an uphill battle in their matches against Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer respectively on the opening day of the tie on Friday.
The 203rd ranked Ramanathan punched above his weight against Lopez, who is placed 26th in the world rankings, before going down 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6 in four bitterly fought sets.
Myneni on the other hand, was no match for Ferrer with the Spaniard easing to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 victory.
Despite the lopsided nature of the contest, Ali asserted that hosting the star-studded Spanish squad is a positive move for Indian tennis.
"I think it's great to have Spain over here. This is probably the toughest team to ever visit India. We hosted the United States back in 1994 who had Todd Martin in their squad, but I think the kind of an aura and the legend Rafael Nadal is, that did not happen before this. This is clearly the toughest one of the last three playoffs we had. It is great for tennis in India from a fan's perspective to watch the likes of Nadal, David Ferrer and Feleciano Lopez play," Ali said.
"It is a great experience for our players as well. Ram Kumar and Saketh are relatively new for playing singles. It is obviously sad that Yuki Bhambri, Somedev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna are not playing and are down with injuries which makes it a lot tougher for us. But the young guys did well in the opening singles.
“–They all know it's an uphill task. This in a way takes pressure off them as nobody is expecting the miracles to happen. Keeping that in mind, they can go out there and play freely. That's all I expect from them. Try the hardest that they can," he added.
"If we manage to win a match or two, it will be great."
Nadal disappointed the jampacked crowd at the R.K. Khana Tennis Stadium on Friday as he pulled out of the opening singles against Ramanathan with a wrist injury. Ali felt that his very presence in the visitors' squad is an indication of the seriousness with which the Spanish players are approaching their tie against India and their eagerness to return to the World Group.
"Nadal had said that before the US Open that his performance at the final Grand Slam of the year would determine whether he would come or not. I think, like Leander Paes, Nadal is all about patriotism. At the Olympics, Nadal played in singles, doubles and mixed doubles as well. I think Davis Cup means a lot to him and a lot other Spanish players," the Indian coach said.
"So, given an opportunity he would come, I knew it."
The Spanish players, including Nadal, have commented on the extreme heat and humidity in the capital which has prompted even the Indian camp to decide on playing the matches during the evening. Ali however, opined that the extreme weather conditions will have no effect on the performance of the Spanish players.
"I think the weather is not going to make much of a difference to the Spanish players.