Nadal to play Monaco to open Davis Cup final

Nadal to play Monaco to open Davis Cup final

SEVILLE - The Associated Press
Nadal to play Monaco to open Davis Cup final

(From L) Spanish David Cup team players Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal chat during the David Cup final draw. AFP photo

Argentina decided to hold back David Nalbandian, opting instead to send Juan Monaco up against Rafael Nadal in the opening singles match of the Davis Cup final.

Nadal will take on Monaco today in the opening match of the best-of-five series on clay at the Olympic Stadium, with Nalbandian picked to play in tomorrow’s doubles. The 2002 Wimbledon finalist could then play in Dec. 4’s reverse singles if Argentina is still alive.

Nadal has won 18-straight singles matches in the competition since losing in his debut in 2004.
“It’s one of the greatest (challenges) in (tennis) history,” Monaco said yesterday at the Lope de Vega theater, the site of the draw for the final. “It’s a tough match not only to play the first game for Argentina but also against my good friend Rafa. It’s a new challenge, but it definitely motivates me to be playing in my first Davis Cup final.” Monaco is only 5-7 in Davis Cup play, while Nalbandian is 22-5 in singles and 10-1 on clay. Overall, Nalbandian is 33-10 overall in the competition.

After Nadal’s opening match, fifth-ranked David Ferrer will play Juan Martin del Potro. In doubles, Nalbandian will partner with Eduardo Schwank against Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco.
Nadal and Ferrer are a combined 25-0 on clay for four-time champion Spain.

“No match is won beforehand. Somebody has to play first and I’m going to be the first to try and win that first point for Spain,” said Nadal, a six-time French Open champion who is scheduled to play Del Potro in Dec. 4’s reverse singles. “Even if I’m tired I tried my best to arrive in the best conditions. Every point will be a difficult one.” If Argentina can get at least one point today or tomorrow, it is possible that Nalbandian would replace Monaco for Sunday’s reverse singles match against Ferrer.

Although Nadal has been nearly perfect in Davis Cup, the Spaniard surrendered his No. 1 ranking to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon and is coming off a disappointing ATP World Tour Finals in London. He was eliminated in the first round and said he felt less passionate for the game.

Even without Nadal, Spain beat favored Argentina in the 2008 final in Mar del Plata. This year, it’s the Spanish team that is trying to keep from being overconfident heading into the final weekend of the season.

“They gave us up for beaten before the final and we won,” said Verdasco, who earned the series-winning point in Mar del Plata. “Both teams have a chance in the final. You still have to win it.” Spain, which also won in 2004, ‘08 and ‘09, will be playing in its sixth final since its first Davis Cup title in 2000. And Nalbandian, who hasn’t played since mid-October, will be playing in his third final for Argentina.

“Everything is different this time,” Nalbandian said.