Bullfighting, tennis in unusual Spanish Davis Cup formula By Sebastian Fest

The typical image of the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid is sand splattered with fresh blood. The same venue is set to host a Davis Cup semifinal tie between Spain and the United States from Friday.

A decade ago, both bullfighting and tennis traditionalists would have shuddered at the mere thought of such an odd combination. But everyone seems happy this week in Madrid - Spaniards, bullfight lovers and even the US players, who are neither used to nor necessarily fond of the Spanish tradition, the dpa reported.

"The bullring is cool, really unique. I think we are going to enjoy it," US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa.

McEnroe admitted that he had earlier witnessed two bullfights.

The setting that Spain has prepared for the US is unusual. An estimated 21,000 people are to watch the duel between two historic tennis powers, in the same place where man and bull size each other up week after week.

In fact, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) found puddles of blood during a preliminary inspection of the site.

"This is majestic! It's incredible to have done this here!" Aurelio Sanchez Garcia told dpa. The Madrid native, 42, has had a season ticket at Las Ventas for 16 years, but is equally happy to have a tennis court where "his" bullfighters usually shine.

This is not the first time that tennis has come so close to bullfighting. The Mallorca Open, promoted by Ion Tiriac, caused quite a stir in the mid-1990s when the Coliseo Balear bullring was used for the games.

In 2004, Mallorca again opened up its bullring for a Davis Cup tie against the Netherlands, and Alicante did the same in the semifinal against France. That year Spain lifted its second Davis Cup trophy, a success it seeks to repeat in November.

Around Las Ventas, people were not bothered by the new arrivals. "I think it is perfect. And so many things have been done here ... concerts, even a British clothing fair," recalled a waiter at Los Timbales, a bar where a special dish - bull's tail - goes for 15 euros (20 dollars).

The ITF likes the setting too. "It has a special magnetism," spokeswoman Barbara Travers told dpa.

Organizers have sold all the tickets, including boxes that fit six people for 12,000 euros (16,500 dollars) for the entire weekend. As you move further up, the cost goes down with visibility - 135 euros (185 dollars) for the weekend.

Sanchez Garcia, the man with the Las Ventas season ticket, fantasizes about seeing the Spanish team leave the bullring through the main gate on the shoulders of their supporters, as is the tradition with triumphant bullfighters.

"Of course, even more so after beating the Yankees," he said.

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