|Posted on December 2, 2009 at 3:55 PM|
Final preparations are made - Tomas Berdych in the locker room
02 Dec 2009 - Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona - Chris Archer
Stage is set for memorable Final
One of Europe’s finest cities, a former Olympic venue with a capacity of 16,000, a passionate crowd and two world class teams ready to commence battle… the stage is set for a memorable Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final.
Palau Sant Jordi was built in 1990 and staged the gymnastics event at the Barcelona Olympics. It has since hosted some of the best in sport, music and entertainment – from the World Aquatic Championships to Tina Turner, Frank Sinatra and Paul McCartney.
It was also the venue for a watershed moment in Spanish tennis when, in 2000, Albert Costa, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Co led Spain to its first Davis Cup title. The rest, as they say, is history with the Spaniards going on to become the competition’s dominating force over the next decade.
Palau Sant Jordi is a truly spectacular stadium and, just like it was in 2000, the crowd will be rocking when play gets underway on Friday. The Spaniards love their tennis but so do the Czechs, and there are a couple of thousand travelling fans expected over the weekend.
At the moment, with two days to go before the doors are opened, hard hats are still on show as the final touches are applied to the arena – floors swept, sounds systems checked, and double checked, seats cleaned, etc, etc.
The players are also making their final preparations as they take to the court for numerous practice sessions. The court - red clay, obviously - is predictably slow but will no doubt speed up a little with time.
To describe the conditions as arctic would be going too far but the temperature inside Palau Sant Jordi is definitely a bit nippy. Radek Stepanek, who is from Czech Republic and is therefore no stranger to chilly weather, says that his ‘hands are blue after practice’.
The first press conferences took place on Tuesday with a number of Spanish and international media in attendance. Both teams were in relaxed mood but particularly Spain, as Rafael Nadal had the interview room in stitches.
Nadal, recalling the occasion he, as a 14-year-old, carried the Spanish flag at the 2000 Final, said that, at the time, it was a big honour to be in the presence of Juan Carlos Ferrero and the rest of the team. He forgot to mention that in ‘the rest of the team’ was one Albert Costa, the current captain. Not a good idea to upset el capitan Rafa!
So, the time has almost arrived. Thursday will see the formalities of the draw being made to decide who will play against who and on which day. Then, on Friday, the opening two singles rubbers will be contested, followed by the doubles on Saturday and reverse singles on Sunday.
For Czech Republic, the safe money will be on Stepanek and Tomas Berdych playing both singles and doubles. The Spanish line-up, however, is a little trickier to predict. Nadal is obviously first choice but the second singles player could be Fernando Verdasco or David Ferrer, while Feliciano Lopez will likely feature in the doubles.