Five-time Davis Cup by BNP Paribas champion and unbeaten on clay in a remarkable 26 ties, Spain has the added bonus of heading into this weekend’s World Group play-off against Ukraine on its favoured surface with the ultimate trump card in newly-crowned US Open champion Rafael Nadal.
The odds, it seems, are firmly stacked in the home side's favour. But that won’t stop Ukraine holding out hope of an almighty upset when it takes on Alex Corretja’s men on clay at the Caja Mágica, Madrid, on 13-15 September.
“It’s extremely hard for us and we’re playing on clay which will not help us that much but we’re going to definitely pursue all our chances,” said Ukrainian No. 2 Sergiy Stakhovsky. “You never know what’s going to happen. Tennis is a sport where if you’re ready and you want to take your chance then you can win the match.
“If we go [to Madrid] and prepare hard we might have a chance. We might not, but we will do everything we can to have it.”
World No. 2 Nadal provides a daunting proposition on his own as he returns to Davis Cup for the first time since winning the decisive rubber against Argentina in the 2011 Final, fresh from winning his 13th Grand Slam title at the US Open.
And with No. 19 Tommy Robredo, No. 33 Fernando Verdasco and doubles world No. 8 Marc Lopez also nominated, three of the Spanish team are ranked higher than Ukraine’s lead man, No. 40 Alexandr Dolgopolov, with Stakhovsky loitering significantly further down the rankings at No. 92 in the world.
World No. 152 Oleksandr Nedovyesov and No. 227 Denys Molchanov complete captain Mikhail Filima’s line-up.
While the numbers aren't necessarily in its favour, Ukraine is on something of a roll in Davis Cup. The nation has won its last five straight ties to earn a place in the World Group play-offs for the second time in history, having narrowly missed out on a place in the top tier of the competition with a 3-2 defeat to Belgium in 2009.
Regardless of the team standing in its way, for Ukraine, and indeed Stakhovsky, reaching the World Group remains a priority.
“That was the goal since I started to play Davis Cup back in 2006, to give Ukraine a chance to play in the World Group,” said Stakhovsky. “I think with the team we have now we definitely deserve to be there and we are going to try to prove that.”
Spain play Ukraine in a World Group play-off on 13-15 September. Play starts at 2pm local time (12pm GMT) on Friday.