|Posted on December 3, 2009 at 11:26 AM|
03 Dec 2009 - Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona - Sandra Harwitt
A few surprises in Davis Cup Final draw
There were a few unanticipated scenarios presented when the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas draw for the Final was announced at the Palau Sant Jordi on Thursday morning.
The Spanish surprise: Captain Alberto Costa nominated 18th-ranked David Ferrer to play second singles behind Rafael Nadal instead of ninth-ranked Fernando Verdasco.
The Czech surprise: Captain Jaroslav Navratil nominated reigning Roland Garros and U.S. Open doubles champion Lukas Dlouhy, along with little-known Jan Hajek, to play doubles instead of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. The latter duo has won all three doubles points played by the Czechs this season in Davis Cup.
But no matter who plays who, the bottom line is that Davis Cup is a separate and special entity to the rest of the year.
“The only thing is win Davis Cup,” Nadal said. “It’s a very important competition and one of the biggest things you can win in tennis.”
When the competition gets underway on Friday afternoon, Nadal will start things off for the defending champions against Berdych. Nadal comes into the match with a 5-3 lead over Berdych and having won their last four encounters dating back to 2007.
Friday’s second singles rubber pits Ferrer against Stepanek in their seventh career meeting. They are tied at 3-3, but Stepanek won their latest outing, a five-set marathon in the third-round at Wimbledon in June.
The doubles point is slated to feature Feliciano Lopez and Verdasco against Dlouhy and Hajek, although Costa is expecting the Czech line-up to change. Both countries have until an hour before the doubles match to name substitute players.
“Well, I think they will change the doubles, but we have to respect these two other players,” Costa said. “They are very good also.”
In Sunday’s reverse singles matches, the opening rubber will be between Nadal and Stepanek, with the Spaniard having beaten Stepanek all four times they’ve previously played. Ferrer and Berdych will close out the weekend in the fifth rubber. Ferrer brings a 4-2 edge into this final match.
Pressure on Nadal - Nadal arrives to the court with much to prove after failing to win one of three matches he played at the ATP World Tour Finals in London last week. However, Nadal, who will be in his element on a red clay court and in front of a large partisan crowd, seemed ready to put his recent poor performance behind him and get on with trying to retain the Davis Cup crown.
“Everybody talk about hard week last week,” Nadal said. “But (it) wasn’t a big surprise. I didn’t arrive with the best confidence… on difficult surface, against the best players of the world.
“So here I practiced hard and well during all the week. I am happy to be here and be part of this very good team. We practiced all the time… trying our best in every practice. And I think and I hope to be ready for tomorrow.”
The Czech team quickly dismissed Nadal’s disappointing showing last week and are expecting to see the guy who is currently ranked No. 2, to be in good form and high spirits.
“I think, definitely, last matches didn’t [go] Rafa’s way as he is used to,” Stepanek said. “Once all the guys gonna step on clay on their home surface, the situation will completely change. I think we are expecting Rafa in the hundred percent shape. There is no other way to expect him to be ready.”
Stepanek, who plays with the unique Bosworth Tour 96 racket, which is designed to his specifications and was adjusted last week for the challenge of dethroning Spain as Davis Cup champions, is ready to give his best effort.
“I think the tactic is pretty simple: to win three match points in the three matches out of five, then we are fine,” said Stepanek, smiling. “But, definitely, it’s going to be a difficult job to do it. We came here to fight for our three points over the weekend, and we gonna do everything for that.”
What’s at stake?
Here’s what’s at stake for the two nations competing in this 98th installment of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final since the competition began in 1900:
Spain is in the hunt for a fourth Davis Cup title in seven Final appearances. It won its first Davis Cup title here at the Palau Sant Jordi against Australia in 2000. The Spaniards also defeated USA at the Estadio Olimpico in Seville in 2004, and beat Argentina at the Estadio Islas Malvinas in Mar del Plata last year.
The Czechs are competing in their third final and won the title for the only time in 1980. The victory came against Italy, 4-1, at home in Prague.
Spain holds a slight 3-2 advantage over Czech Republic in Davis Cup action. Their last meeting came in the 2004 first round with Spain taking the tie 3-2.
The home court advantage and the weight of the Spanish players would seem to point in the direction that they should defend their Davis Cup crown. Nevertheless, Costa is not allowing his team to go about assuming they have the trophy in the bag as the Czech team is likely to be a formidable foe.
“We will have a lot of competition this weekend,” Costa said. “It’s gonna be a very tough tie. They are a great nation. When they play for their country, they play a hundred percent. We will try to do the same.
“For the competition, the weekend is going to be unbelievable. It’s going to be the best tennis of the world here in the Palau Sant Jordi. But I hope that Spain will win in the end.”