Indian ace Leander Paes is one of the biggest stars in doubles and one of the best players in the history of tennis, said fourteen-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, who led Spain to the Davis Cup World Group by winning the doubles match here.
“He (Leander) played a great match. It was so amazing tonight (on Saturday) and it is a pleasure to play him here in his country. He is one of the biggest stars of doubles and one of the best player in the history of the sport,” said Nadal after he, along with Marc Lopez, led Spain back into Davis Cup World Group by beating Leander Paes and Saketh Myneni 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4 in the doubles match on Saturday night.
“It was great to compete against him (Leander), it was a tough match. They played well but we are happy to have the victory and come back to the world group, that’s where we think we have to be with so many of our players being in the top 100. That’s what our goal was and we did it. For us, it was a very important confrontation after being away from the World Group for two years.”
The Spanish pair, the Olympic champions, were a set and 5-4 down in the second set when they staged a fight-back to eventually give Spain an unassailable 3-0 lead in the play-off.
Nadal clarified that it was indeed a stomach bug that forced him to skip the opening singles match against Ramkumar Ramanathan on Friday.
“It was not the wrist. Everybody knows about my situation and I have always been honest about it. My wrist is improving but it still bothers me a little bit. But I am happy with the progress. There is a lot of humidity here and after practice, I had lunch at hotel and I felt I was not feeling perfect to go on court. Feli (Feliciano Lopez) was in perfect condition to go to court so he played,” said Nadal.
Asked if they were confident of bouncing back after losing the first set in the doubles match, Nadal said: “We played point by point, that’s all. When you lost a set at 5-3 that means you are in trouble. But at the same time the match is still long, we fought a lot and put a lot of balls in and we knew if we could increase the level we can win.”
“We were communicating all the time but the ball was not going to the right place all the time. In Davis Cup doubles, there is always a lot of ups and downs and it was a typical doubles match. It was a great victory. It was important for us to win doubles because in the history of Spanish team it has been difficult to win doubles.”
Describing his experience in India, he said: “It is always special to play in a country where we don’t play too often. In India, I have played in Chennai few years back and then last year it was IPTL and then this year it was Davis Cup, the fans are passionate here and it is great for the players and good for our sport.”
Asked if he will play in the IPTL next year, Nadal said: “I’m playing IPTL but I don’t know if I am playing for India. That you have to ask Mahesh Bhupathi.”
About his goals, he said: “I want to try to qualify for the world tour finals and that is the goal for me.”
Marc, who had won Olympic gold with Nadal and the French Open partnering Feliciano Lopez, said it is the trust and friendship among the players which was the key to success.
“Playing with players of such stature and like Feli has got a great serve and Rafa has an overall game and the key to success for us is the trust and friendship,” the 34-year-old Marc said with the help of a translator.
Talking about the match, he said: “Serve is a tough part for me. I tried to get the first serve lot more. I was serving at 150s and Rafa helped a lot at net and nerves made it difficult for me but overall I leave with very good feeling of the match.”
With Spain leading 3-0, the reverse singles have been rendered inconsequential but Feliciano said they will be up to their best and look to win them.
“We are 3-0 up and we accomplished our goal and we are happy for that but we have two matches to play and we will try to win both of them obviously. We don’t know who will be playing but we all are training.”