Alex Corretja, a former world No. 2 and Davis Cup champion, gives his thoughts ahead of his first tie as Spanish captain. The defending champions are taking on Kazkhstan on home soil in Oviedo this weekend in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round.
Only a few days before your debut in Davis Cup as captain... what are your feelings about this first round against Kazakhstan?
If you take a look at the team, at how keen they are, the enthusiasm they have, the feelings are always positive. This gives me plenty of motivation and hope that things will go well even though we know it’s not going to be easy.
You travelled to Australia to talk to the Spanish players and see them competing. Did you have the chance to watch any of your rivals in action?
Yes, I watched a lot of hours of tennis with Jose Maria Arenas, the team vice captain, and we could follow all of our players and also the Kazakhs, Golubev and Kukushkin especially. We follow them closely and we realized that they are very talented and playing at a very good level. They will be very aggressive and difficult to beat.
Having a look at the history of both teams, some people could think that this is going to be easy for you...
No, I don’t think so. Maybe from the outside there may be people that have that idea, but not us. The most important thing is that both the players and the coaching staff are very aware of the danger that the Kazakhs pose, they are very dangerous. My job as captain is making the players understand it, in case they get distracted. It’s normal that the general public don’t know them so well because they’re not high-ranked players, but they are very dangerous.
On a personal level, you are taking a new challenge in your career with your debut as captain. How do you feel about it?
I feel very excited. I think that this is a very beautiful opportunity in my professional life, I’m very grateful to all the people that gave me their confidence: the RFET President (Jose Luis Escanuela), Albert Costa, who was the one who called me, obviously the players, the public in general and the media... I couldn’t ask for more.
You reach the captaincy with the added challenge of not being able to count on the players that played last year’s final.
Well, it’s not something I’m thinking about at the moment because I have the duty to build a team with the four players that we think are best suited. I have the luck of having four big players that are very keen to play and that’s what matters the most. There are others that could be here but are not, but I also thank them for their availability. Spanish tennis is not only four players, there are a lot more and I think that it’s extremely important to have different options to build a team depending on different conditions, surfaces and rivals. In this occasion, we have a very, very solid team.
Do you think that they will come back to the team after the Olympic Games in case Spain reaches the semifinals? What did they tell you about it?
The only thing I know is that we are playing with Almagro, Granollers, Ferrero and Marc Lopez. I don’t care about the rest at this point.
Do you understand the decision of the players that have ruled out playing the early rounds, taking into consideration the Olympic year and the overcrowded calendar?
Well, the calendar is very complex for everyone, not only for the four at the top but for everyone else. Everybody has ambitions and everybody wants to qualify for the Olympics and you need to make choices and set priorities thinking on what you consider right. As an ex-player, I also took tough decisions at some points. These decisions sometimes have consequences for others and that’s normal, but I find it reasonable that everyone does what they think is right. I didn’t have any problem in supporting them and have a dialogue with them, that’s what I did, and, once you have talked to all of them, you get reassured because you see that in truth everybody is very keen and nobody, absolutely nobody has said that they won’t play this year.
For this first round you will have a completely new team, with Nicolas Almagro as No. 1, a player that last year casted doubts over his participation in Davis Cup. Did you need to persuade him? What were the conversations with him like?
Nico is a very straightforward guy and sometimes he says the first thing that comes to his mind, this also shows how fresh he is as a person. Talking to him was very easy, I sincerely believe that he has several good years of Davis Cup in front of him, he will have a starring role and I’m very happy to see that he is one of the players that is showing more commitment. He is a 100% Davis Cup player.
A legendary veteran like Juan Carlos Ferrero, alongside whom you won the first ever Davis Cup title in 2000, is back in the team. What can he add to the group?
He will increase the level, you can have a great deal of experience but if you don’t have level you would miss a lot. He has level, experience and wisdom. He has been in the team, and he has won. A lot of victories have been achieved thanks to him and for me it’s a privilege to have him available. I know him well, I played alongside him, we’ve been in the same team, and we’ve shared moments of great tension and also of great happiness. Having Ferrero is very important in a totally new team like this one, with a new captain, new vice captain.
Will Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez play the doubles?
Marcel is a very versatile player and that's very useful for a captain, he can play on any surface - singles, doubles. I’m very happy that Marc Lopez will make his debut, he has been working very hard for this opportunity over the last years and now finally it’s here. It’s his moment. The only thing that I expect from them is that they give their best like they always do, nothing else. I won’t ask for anything else that a good attitude every day, and they’re already doing it, so I’m very confident with my decision.
The Davis Cup is also a show. What would you say to the crowd in Oviedo? What will they see in these three years of competition?
The crowd is fundamental in Davis Cup and I think that we must show that the Spanish crowd is knowledgeable and respectful, but also absolutely committed to the players. I ask for an electrifying atmosphere but always respecting the rival. I have never understood why people applaud between serves and I think this is the moment of showing that you can support your players without the need to bother the rivals.