Rusty Davydenko to open for Russia; Spain without Nadal
Out-of-form Nikolay Davydenko starts the campaign for hosts Russia with an opening rubber against Argentine David Nalbandian after the draw Thursday for their Davis Cup World Group weekend quarter-final.world Updated: Jul 08, 2010 20:05 IST
Out-of-form Nikolay Davydenko starts the campaign for hosts Russia with an opening rubber against Argentine David Nalbandian after the draw Thursday for their Davis Cup World Group weekend quarter-final.
Davydenko, who missed three months with a broken wrist, will be out to insure that Russia maintain the record of never having lost to the South Americans at home when he faces recent injury victim Nalbandian Friday.
"I haven't played for three months, just had a couple of matches on grass," said the Russian "Only time will tell how well I'm playing."
The hosts have plenty at stake, holding a 17-match home win dating back nearly a decade and a half.
Davydenko's opening match will be followed by Mikhail Youzhny against Argentine Leondaro Mayer to conclude the opening-day programme. Teimuraz Gabashvili and Igor Kunitsyn are down for Saturday doubles against Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos.
Nalbandian, who needed hip surgery 15 months ago, has since been bothered by other injuries including an abdominal muscle problem. He last competed in Monte Carlo three months ago.
Russia hold a 3-2 head-to-head lead in the series, with their last meeting the 2006 final in Moscow, which the hosts won.
Argentina have lost all three Davis finals they have played.
In Clermont-Ferrand, France will begin against holders Spain with Gael Monfils playing David Ferrer as both teams miss injured leaders.
World number one Rafael Nadal is out for the Spaniards as the new Wimbledon champion undergoes therapy on a knee, while France are without injured Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. France's Michael Llodra will face Fernando Verdasco in the second singles rubber.
Verdasco clinched the trophy for his nation in the 2008 final against Argentina, with Ferrer undefeated in eight straight Davis singles contests. France last beat Spain in 1923.
"It's going to be a close match," predicted Verdasco. "In Davis Cup you never know, that's why it's so special."
Llodra will also do doubles duty on Saturday alongside Julien Benneteau against Feliciano Lopez and Verdasco.
Police are braced in Split as hosts Croatia play bitter Balkan rival Serbia for the first time in the competition.
Serbia are paced by Wimbledon semi-finalist Novak Djokovic, whose fitness may be suspect after the long fortnight on grass without a break.
But the world number two says his nation has the talent to reach the tournament's final in December. Croatia, with Ivan Ljubicic coming out of Davis Cup retirement to play for the first time since 2007, won the trophy in 2005.
Ljubicic will take on Djokovic in the first rubber while Marin Cilic then faces Serb Viktor Troicki. The nations have a huge sporting rivalry, with official ready to crackdown at the first sign of football-style crowd trouble.
"I'm used to playing in front of a lot of people and in a tense atmosphere," said Djokovic. "Davis Cup can be unpredictable, especially for the visitors.
"Croatia has more success, but we have a team that can get to the finals."
Croatia are missing injured Mario Ancic and Ivo Karlovic.
The last of the four ties will be played in South America between Chile and the Czech Republic.
First Published: Jul 08, 2010 20:00 IST