November 20, 2008

Davis Cup Preview

This weekend the World Wars of tennis are being held south of the equator, and by Sunday a new Davis Cup Champion will be crowned.

Argentina, who pulled off a solid defeat of Russia in the semis, has home-court advantage and will face Spain, a team which is ostensibly missing one very important member -- Rafael Nadal, who injured his knee in Paris, will be watching the matches from Mallorca.

The two nations have met twice before in Davis Cup history, at the 2003 semifinals and -- get this -- the 1926 quarters. Spain won both times.

With Nadal's absence, however, this year's field is more even than it might otherwise have been.

Playing for Argentina are ATP Masters Cup Qualifier Juan Martin Del Potro and former world #3, David Nalbandian. They're joined by Jose Acasuso and Agustin Calleri. On the other side of the court are David Ferrer, who's slid from #4 to #12 since just August, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez and Nadal's replacement, 22-year-old Marcel Granollers. Never heard of him? Me either -- he hasn't gotten past the second round in a Tier I tournament all year.

And so the Davis Cup title, which could have been a slam dunk for Spain, is now truly up for grabs, and stats on both teams indicate this could be a battle.

Del Potro has had an outstanding year, rising from a low of #81 to a spot at the ATP Masters Cup Championships. Nalbandian has struggled a bit, falling out of the top ten, but still occupies a sound spot at #11. Spain's best two competitors, Ferrer and Verdasco are also contenders, both in the top fifteen. Granollers is really the wild card for them, I'd say, and this could be his big chance to make a name for himself on the world stage.

It might not be the final we were hoping for -- wouldn't it be great to see the Swiss duo of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka back up their Olympic Gold or Serbians like Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic repeat their success in Shanghai? And what about France, which has two players in the top ten for the first time in how many years?

Even still I'm putting my money on Argentina in a tight 3-2 race -- though I'd be more than happy to see a different outcome.

As I said before, ¡viva EspaƱa!

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