Weary Rafa ready to play in Davis Cup
This weekend’s Davis Cup semi-finals will see Rafael Nadal dig into dwindling reserves of energy to help Spain reach the Davis Cup final while champions Serbia may not even need world No1 and Nadal’s US Open conqueror Novak Djokovic as they bid to eliminate Argentina.
Djokovic was drawn yesterday to take on 74th-ranked David Nalbandian in the opening match today, but the 24-year-old was only scheduled to arrive in Belgrade last night.
“Novak arrives today and we’ll see at what point he will be ready to play,” teammate Viktor Troicki said. “In any case, I’ll be ready and will fight for each point to help Serbia to victory,” added the world No16.
Coach Bogdan Obradovic can change his team up to an hour before the tie as the reigning champions bid a second consecutive final.
Nadal arrived in Cordoba admiting he was “a bit tired” after Djokovic wrecked his quest to win an 11th Grand Slam.
“I have played three weeks at the highest level possible. So I’ve arrived here a bit physically tired. We’ll see in the coming days how I feel,” said Nadal, who helped Spain land the “salad bowl” trophy in 2004 at the expense of the United States and was also on the squad which thrashed the Czech Republic in 2009.
Modest to a fault, Nadal, 25, added that “anyway, (the team) is not just me. We are a team of four players and perhaps the captain will decide that one of my teammates is better prepared than me.”
Nadal takes on Richard Gasquet in today’s opening rubber. The Frenchman is yet to win a match in nine attempts against the US Open runner-up.
The Spanish are favourites with two top five ranked players in Nadal and David Ferrer as they bid to reach the final for the third time in four years in Cordoba’s bullring.
France, runners-up last year, are hoping to follow on from their 5-0 whitewash over Spain in last year’s World Group quarter-finals.
France skipper Guy Forget suggests that to beat four-times champions Spain, they would have to climb “Everest” as they look to reach the final for the second straight year.
“They are not unbeatable but it will be very difficult. We know all about Nadal’s hunger for tennis even when he is tired and Ferrer behind him is one of the most consistent people around on clay, so Spain are our Everest.
“We must not submit to their style of play and ensure we can last the distance.”
Spanish counterpart Albert Costa insisted that “France are one of the best teams in the world” but suggested that “the absence of Gael Monfils might weigh heavily on them”.
Costa added: “Last year’s 5-0 in the quarters hurt us – but the context (this season) is completely different. We shall go into it without any feeling of revenge but just try and get past this French team.”