Argentina eye weakened Spain in Davis Cup final

Other News Materials 23 November 2008 03:34 (UTC +04:00)

Argentina could win all five rubbers in this weekend's Davis Cup final, a confident home team captain Alberto Mancini said before their clash against Spain who will be without world number one Rafael Nadal, TehranTimes reported.

The knee injury to the French Open and Wimbledon champion Nadal, which also meant he missed the season-ending Shanghai Masters, has taken some of the luster out of this contest which runs from Friday to Sunday in Mar del Plata.

An optimistic Mancini said at the Islas Malvinas stadium : "Today, I would say we can win all five points. The boys are playing very well in practice."

Argentina's number one Juan Martin del Potro has been the main concern for the team, as he has had the least time to adjust to the court having arrived last from a 27-hour flight from Shanghai.

But Mancini was happy with del Potro's recovery and the man himself was confident that he will be on top form.

"I'm slowly starting to feel better," said the 20-year-old world number nine. "There's still three days to go and I'm quickly getting used to the court."

The choice of surface has been a hot topic with the initial concern for the Argentines being the threat of Nadal - hence the choice to play on hard court.

Mancini added however that without Nadal the match would be far from easy. "I've always said that even without Nadal, Spain is a dangerous team. We can't completely relax."

Spanish Davis Cup captain Emilio Sanchez was keen to point out that the choice of surface did not come as a surprise, but that it also wasn't just about Nadal.

He said: "Although Argentina and Spain are traditionally clay-courters, Del Potro and Nalbandian have had excellent results on hard court. After the hard court season, it would have been too much for them to switch to clay so it was more beneficial for them to choose hard court.

"Del Potro wouldn't have had time to get used to a slow court either, so if they had chosen to play on clay, the level of tennis all round wouldn't have been the same."

The absence of Nadal was initially a huge blow for both finalists, but both captains were adamant that it no longer affects the teams and that the motivation still remains the same.

"Of course it's natural that it changes your mental state, but it doesn't change our focus," added Davis Cup veteran David Nalbandian. "At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who is in front of us."

Sanchez was also defiant that his team still upheld the same confidence and same determination with or without their number one player.

"I don't need to be a guru, they know the importance of this final and that it's the only chance they have. It's only the media that puts pressure on my players, not me.

"We don't think about Rafa's absence anymore. If we keep reminding ourselves that he is not here, the Spanish people watching at home on TV would ask what are they doing??"

Talk then turned to who would be nominated for the singles and doubles, with Sanchez in particular keeping his cards close to his chest.

"It's the last few days of practice and everyone is putting in 100 percent," Sanchez added. "I will tell the players first and then tell you. Whatever my decision, my players are 10 out of 10. We will show that on the court."

The question is whether lefthanders Feliciano Lopez or Fernando Verdasco will be nominated alongside David Ferrer to play singles for Spain.

Both players are evenly-matched in terms of ability, with Lopez bringing a wily serve to the table and Verdasco strength from the baseline.

Verdasco could be called to play both singles and doubles, a challenge that he confirmed he is more than happy to undertake.

Argentina's doubles will undoubtedly feature either Agustin Calleri and Jose Acasuso, who have both been working hard on their service returns with the prospect of facing two lefthanders in the doubles, and the Spanish have brought Marcel Granollers, who could be called up to make his Davis Cup debut in Saturday's doubles.