Home nation, Spain begin their Davis Cup Finals campaign on Tuesday when they take on Russia at the Caja Magica in Madrid.
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Note: Team captains have until one hour before the start of play to confirm the players competing.
The Russians will be looking to make it two wins from two, and secure their qualification for the quarter finals, having secured a 3-0 victory over last year’s Davis Cup champions, Croatia in their opening group match on Monday.
They will likely find it a lot tougher against the Spaniards, spearheaded by world No. 1, Rafael Nadal. Nadal is joined in a formidable Spanish team by fellow top-ten star, Roberto Bautista-Agut and former top-ten player, Pablo Carreno Busta, while Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers supply the doubles expertise.
Inevitably, much of the focus will be in home hero, Nadal, who will most likely get to feature in one singles match up. Nadal might have failed to progress beyond the group phase at last week’s Nitto ATP Finals, but there was the feeling that he got better as the tournament progressed, and was playing something close to his best tennis by the time he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in his final group match (which obviously was not good enough to get him into the semi-finals). The great Spaniard will hope to continue that trajectory through the week in Madrid as he attempts to inspire his country to a first Davis Cup title since 2011, and a sixth overall.
Nadal has a formidable 24-1 record in Davis Cup singles matches, with his only defeat coming against Jiri Novak in his first ever match in the competition back in 2004. The 33-year-old arrives Madrid on a high having secured the year-end No. 1 ranking following a season that yielded Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros and the US Open, and Masters 1000 successes in Rome and Montreal.
He will be well supported by Bautista-Agut, the Spanish No. 2, who produced his best season in 2019, breaking into the top-ten for the first time and just missing out on qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals. However, the 31-year-old is 6-5 in Davis Cup matches, and has lost his last two singles matches in the competition. The world No. 9 will likely get the nod though, as Spain’s other notable singles option, Carreno Busta hasn’t fared any better, putting together a 2-3 record in his fledgling Davis Cup career.
While Spain have an apparent abundance to choose from, their opponents, Russia are one of the most limited sides in the competition, with only three players present in Madrid.
Four players were initially nominated, but Russian No. 1, Daniil Medvedev pulled out after a hectic season, leaving Karen Khachanov, Andrey Rublev and Evgeny Donskoy as the men to fly the nation’s flag in the Spanish capital.
They did an excellent job in their opening match, pulling off a 3-0 victory over last year’s champions, Croatia. The Croatians were also without the inspirational Marin Cilic, who withdrew from the tournament with a knee problem, but it was Russia who coped better with the absence of their superstar. Of course, the Russians still boast great quality despite Medvedev’s absence, with Khachanov and Rublev both inside the world’s top 25.
Rublev set the ball rolling on Monday with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Borna Gojo, before Khachanov came from behind to edge Borna Coric 6-7 6-4 6-4, giving the Russians am unassailable 2-0 lead. The duo then paired up to beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 7-6 6-4, completing the perfect day for the Russians.
Can they maintain their perfect record when they face Spain on Tuesday? It will be interesting to see how captain Shamil Tarpischev juggles his three players through the week, as Khachanov and Rublev will definitely need some rest as the competition progresses.
Spain have won four of their six Davis Cup ties against Russia, but the Russians did triumph in their most recent meeting in 2015, coming back from 0-2 down to win a Euro/Africa Group 1 tie in Vladivostok.
You would fancy Nadal to get one singles win for the Spaniards on Friday, while the experience of Feliciano Lopez could be vital in the doubles rubber should it come down to that.
Spain vs Russia is live from the Caja Magica on Tuesday, 19 November from 5:00pm GMT/ 6:00pm local time