Spain, Japan and Australia took 2-0 leads in their Davis Cup World Group playoffs on Friday, although Rafael Nadal was a late withdrawal from his scheduled opening singles match in New Delhi.
The official reason given was an upset stomach, but Feliciano Lopez, who replaced Nadal and beat India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, said after the match that it was Nadal’s persistent left wrist injury that was still bothering him.
“Rafa has been struggling with his wrist for last 2-3 months, he did not want to take a risk,” Lopez said after his win. “We talked with the captain and decided it was the right decision that I should play.”
Lopez said that although Nadal was not scheduled to play doubles on Saturday when Spain could clinch the tie, Nadal could be a late inclusion. David Ferrer beat Saketh Myneni in straight sets in the other singles match for India’s 2-0 lead after the first day.
In need of victory against Ukraine to retain its place in the World Group next year, Japan opted to rest world No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the opening singles, and the decision paid off in Tokyo.
Taro Daniel defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1, and Yoshihito Nishioka gave the hosts a commanding lead by topping Illya Marchenko 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
Stakhovsky, who had 13 aces, was a last-minute replacement for Artem Smirnov, who pulled out after feeling ill.
Nishikori will partner with Yuichi Sugita to take on Stakhovsky and Danylo Kalenichenko in doubles on Saturday, when Japan can seal the tie.
In Sydney, Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic had straight-set singles victories against Slovakia.
Kyrgios, Australia’s No. 1 player, opened with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Andrej Martin. Tomic beat Jozef Kovalik 7-6 (5) 6-4, 6-4.
Sam Groth and John Peers will try to clinch the tie for Australia on Saturday when they play Martin and Igor Zelenay.
The winner will compete in the 16-team World Group in 2017. Australia is trying to make it for a fourth straight year, and Slovakia for the first time since 2006.
Slovakia is playing without its two top-ranked singles players, No.31 Martin Klizan and No.102 Lukas Lacko, due to injuries.
Australia has won the Davis Cup 28 times — second only to the United States’ 32 — but hasn’t captured the trophy since 2003, its longest drought since before World War II. Australia lost to the U.S. in the World Group first round this year.