Giving tennis more than a shot

Spain vs Argentina – The Cards Are Dealt

Before going into the thick of the subject, please note that unless I’m referring to my own posts, all articles linked in this entry are in Spanish. ~ Caro ~

 

The draw of the Davis cup final was made early this morning (early for me in Canada, that is, but not as early as the wake up call that most of the Argentine team received – while Spain didn’t (?!)) and it is without any surprises that we had the confirmation that Argentina will go with Juan Mónaco to face Rafael Nadal tomorrow, and with David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank in doubles Saturday. It is, after all, what transpired from all the practices we’ve seen since the beginning of the week. As for Spain, was there ever questioning as to their four?

 

The only unknown was who would play which match tomorrow and I must say that the way the singles will be played is one that, if it goes as I think it might, will ensure the most suspense until the very end.

 

Pico Mónaco?! Why not go all broke with David Nalbandian?

Some deemed him early as the “sacrificial lamb” of Argentina, others as the “ace in the sleeve” of Tito Vázquez. For my part, I go with the second one, as Juan Mónaco, these last two months, has played unbelievable tennis, particularly in the last three weeks of his season. 

 

He has won only one match against his friend, in 2007, by retirement, on hard court. He’s never taken a set from him on clay. Nevertheless, don’t count Pico for vanquished (or at least destroyed) before the match starts. Davis Cup is a whole new ball game and we know that Mónaco already gives his all on a tennis court whenever he enters it. I expect it to be no different tomorrow, and even brought to a higher level. “A challenge” is how the Tandil native sees it, and I’m sure he will put up a great fight.

 

We can expect all friendship to be put aside, as Rafael Nadal and Juan Mónaco will face in the very first rubber of the final tomorrow (Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)

 

But why him and not David Nalbandian, the most “copero” of them all? Because Nalbandian’s body wouldn’t tough the run. Nalbandian has not been treated kindly on the injury front in the last few years, and this year was no exception. He spent, again, a lot of this year on the sidelines, including the whole end of the season, which he used to recover from yet another leg injury, and to get ready for this all-important Davis Cup final. Having him play against Nadal in the very first day would likely condemn him to get physically broken in the very first day, and Nalbandian is very much needed if this tie goes to the limit.

 

Using the third best singlist of Argentina is thus the most logical. Nalbandian is not to be left out, as he will play the doubles and, most likely, an eventual decider against David Ferrer.

 

The second point will be the key point

If we’re almost assured that the first point will go to Spain as, after all, Rafael Nadal has only lost one best-of-five match on clay in his whole career (to Robin Söderling, at the 2009 French Open), the second point will then take the utmost importance for both teams. This is the point in which either Argentina would even things out or Spain would take an almost lethal lead.

 

This means that all the pressure will be on the shoulders of Juan Martín del Potro and David Ferrer. Both have shown that they can handle the pressure, both are warriors in their own way. Ferrer is the most tired of the two, but we know that even tired, he is an absolutely dangerous player, especially on clay. For his part, Del Potro is as dangerous as he is powerful. This point is no given for either.

 

If Ferrer plays like he has during the last few months, particularly last week in London, Argentina’s in for serious trouble and a horrendous fight. However, the same can be said for Spain if Delpo shows the same form and level of play he had in Serbia. And something tells me they both will be just like that and that this match will be an epic battle.

 

The second singles point is the one that I think will be the most important of the tie, one in which all the pressure will be on the shoulders of David Ferrer and Juan Martín del Potro. Expect an epic battle! (Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The very important doubles

Contrary of during the Fed Cup, the Davis Cup doubles is a very important point in a tie. It is the one in which a tie can be decided (2-0), revived (0-2), or in which a country takes the advantage prior to Sunday’s reverse singles (1-1). And that is the reason why the team captains usually go with strong doubles teams.

 

The teams comprised of Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano López (who is really not superstitious, look at his left hand!) for Spain, and David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank for Argentina will square off for a very important point of the tie: the doubles (Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)

 

In the case of this final, Albert Costa goes with his usual combination, Feliciano López and Fernando Verdasco, although they haven’t logged good results of late, especially on Verdasco’s side. Every tennis fan who has followed Davis Cup this year remembers how Marcel Granollers was almost alone on the court against the Bryan brothers in Austin, or how López and Verdasco were humiliated by Michaël Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Córdoba. This time, it is a final and Costa counts on his preferred doubles team to turn the tables around and give a (nearly or) mortal blow to Argentina’s hopes.

 

But the wise Tito Vázquez hasn’t said his last word either. The Argentine captain decided to go, as we were able to see all week, with a pair formed of Argentina’s best doubles player, Eduardo Schwank (who, need I remind you, played two Grand Slam finals this year), along with Mr. Davis Cup himself, David Nalbandian. I must admit that it was the team I’d hoped to see for Argentina’s doubles. The net play of Schwank combined to the will and experience of Nalbandian make them a very strong team, one against which I cannot go.

 

My prediction

Spain is the huge favourite in this final. After all, they play at home (where they haven’t lost at their last 20 such ties), on clay, and count on Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, two of the best clay court players, one of them one of the best if not the best of all times. However, I do not share the arrogance of the likes of Manolo Santana and thus absolutely and categorically don’t rule Argentina out, despite the previous facts and also the fact that they haven’t won the Davis Cup in three finals played. All the contrary!

 

Argentina counts on David Nalbandian, one of the most dedicated to Davis Cup players I’ve seen, always ready to die for his country and in the pursuit of his dream. They also count on a very motivated Juan Martín del Potro who, like Nalbandian, has arranged his end-of-season schedule in order to get ready for the finals. With Edu Schwank in the doubles, I am in full confidence, just like I know that Pico Mónaco will give his all and even more to try and do the impossible when facing Nadal tomorrow. Add the wise Tito Vázquez at the helm and that’s a very strong team, one that should not, by all accounts, be underestimated.

 

For all those reasons, I remain with the prediction I made several weeks ago and think that Argentina will emerge as the winner, 3-2, including a decisive Sunday fifth rubber.

 

Call me extremely optimistic, call me a dreamer, it doesn’t matter. I go with my heart. There are, after all, four of my personal favourites on that team, including my two no 1 (Delpo and Pico). But this last fact also makes me already extremely nervous at the prospect of this final, which I will watch on the edge of my seat.

 

The final start at 8AM (EST) tomorrow. In Canada Sportsnet One will broadcast the whole tie.

 

Spain (Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano López, David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal, and captain Albert Costa) and Argentina (captain Tito Vázquez, Juan Martín del Potro, Juan Mónaco, David Nalbandian, and Eduardo Schwank) will face off starting tomorrow with the precious Davis Cup as a target. Will it be Spain's fifth or Argentina's first? A tennis story to follow! (Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)

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