|Posted on November 25, 2009 at 11:28 AM|
Meet the teams
The Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final between Spain and Czech Republic will be staged at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, on 4-6 December.
Spain, attempting to become the first nation since Sweden in 1998 to retain the title, has named a full strength team of Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez.
Czech Republic, chasing its second title after triumphing for the first time in 1980, has also named a strong line-up of Radek Stepanek, Tomas Berdych, Jan Hajek and Lukas Dlouhy.
Nadal needs little introduction. Aged only 23, he has won 36 career singles titles - including six at Grand Slam events - and five doubles titles. This year, he triumphed at the Australian Open but injury has hampered his progress in the second half of the season.
Coincidentally, Nadal made his Davis Cup debut against Czech Republic in 2004. Having lost his opening two rubbers, he bounced back to claim victory over Radek Stepanek in the decisive fifth match. Spain went on to win the title that year with the former world No. 1 defeating Andy Roddick in the Final. He played in this year’s first round win against Serbia but missed the next two ties through injury.
Verdasco has enjoyed the best year of his career in 2009. He won the singles title in New Haven - one of three in his career - and reached No. 7 in the world rankings, his highest to date. At the Australian Open, he defeated Radek Stepanek, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before finally succumbing to Rafael Nadal in five sets in the semifinals.
In last year’s Davis Cup Final against Argentina, Verdasco secured the vital third point for Spain with a five sets victory over Jose Acasuso. Since playing his first tie against Slovak Republic in 2005, he has compiled an overall win-loss record of 11-7. In this year’s campaign, he won two rubbers in the quarterfinals against Germany.
Ferrer reached a career high world ranking of No. 4 in 2008. He has won seven singles titles although he hasn’t managed to lift a trophy this year. His best Grand Slam performance came at the US Open in 2007, when, having defeated Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, he reached the semifinals before eventually losing to Novak Djokovic.
Ferrer has a 9-3 Davis Cup singles record but is yet to play in a doubles rubber. He was a member of the 2008 winning team and made his debut against Belarus in 2006. He is unbeaten in Davis Cup play this year having won two rubbers each in both the first round and semifinals.
Lopez turned professional in 1997 and has been ranked inside the world’s Top 100 for over seven years. He has notched one singles title and one doubles title - both coming in 2004 - and it was around that period when he reached his best career ranking of No. 20. He is also a two-time quarterfinalist at Wimbledon.
Lopez has established himself as Spain’s doubles specialist in recent times having played the middle rubber for the last nine straight Davis Cup ties. In last year’s Final, he not only teamed up with Fernando Verdasco to win the all-important doubles point, but he also came from a set down to record an impressive singles victory over Juan Martin del Potro.
Stepanek, who turned professional in 1996, has been a late bloomer on the singles court, winning all four of his career titles since 2006. He has been a regular fixture in the world’s Top 30 for the last five years and has also won 13 doubles titles.
Having made his Davis Cup debut in 2003, Stepanek was absent from the team for three years before making his come-back against Switzerland in the World Group play-offs in 2007. It was a timely return as he defeated Stanislas Wawrinka in the decisive fifth match. He, along with Tomas Berdych, has since formed the foundation of Czech Republic’s side, playing in both singles and doubles rubbers.
Berdych broke into the world’s Top 100 in 2004 and has since won five singles titles - including at the indoor Paris Masters in 2005 - and one doubles title. His career high world ranking of No. 9 was achieved in 2007 and then repeated a year later. He is also a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist, his best Grand Slam performance to date.
Berdych’s Davis Cup record is impressive. He has compiled an overall win-loss ratio of 21-7 and is unbeaten in doubles play, winning all eight of the rubbers he has contested. Since making his debut against Thailand in 2003, he has been an ever-present in Czech Republic’s team and, of late, has developed a successful partnership with Radek Stepanek.
Hajek, who is coached by Jiri Novak, the only player to have ever defeated Rafael Nadal in a Davis Cup singles rubber, turned professional in 2000. He spent nearly a year in the world’s Top 100 during which time, in 2006, he reached a career high world ranking of No. 71. He has no career titles to his name on the main tour.
Hajek has a 100 per cent Davis Cup record – played one, won one. He made his debut against Croatia in the semifinals and clinched the fourth ‘dead’ rubber, defeating Roko Karanusic in straight sets.
Dlouhy has without doubt enjoyed the finest year of his career so far. He reached his best singles ranking of No. 73 in 2006 but, with great success, has concentrated on his doubles play in recent times. He has won seven titles including this year’s Roland Garros and US Open, both with Leander Paes. He has also been ranked inside the world’s Top 5 doubles players.
In Davis Cup play, Dlouhy has struggled to hold down a regular spot – mainly due to the form and fitness of Czech Republic’s top two players, Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych. However, he has appeared in five ties since making his debut against Morocco in 2006.