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17 January 2014

Juan Monaco: "We will miss David Nalbandian"


Photo: Martin SidorjakJuan Monaco (ARG)

Argentina will start its 2014 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas campaign in the knowledge that for the first time in over a decade David Nalbandian will play no part for his country. 

The talismanic Argentine retired at the end of last year and it's safe to say he will be missed by his Davis Cup team-mates.

Juan Monaco, who will have to step up and lead the team in Nalbandian's absence, is well aware of the impact that not having the man from Cordoba will have this year.

"He played every tie that I was there," said Monaco. "He had a great record playing Davis Cup. For us he was very important, he's a guy with huge experience, so we're going to miss him for sure a lot."

Argentina will not only be without Nalbandian - whose 39 wins for the South American side in Davis Cup is second only to Guillermo Vilas' 57 - but they will also be missing Juan Martin del Potro, who declared himself unavailable until later in the year.

Monaco fully understands that his team face a very difficult first round opponent in Italy.

The Argentine said: "They have big players like Fognini, he had a great year last year, and Seppi also is a very complete player. They have a very good doubles also so every point is going to be 50-50.

"We have a little advantage playing at home, we have a good record playing at home, especially we’re close to my home town, so for me it’s going to give me a new enthusiasm. It’s going to be a difficult tie but we're happy to play again at home."

When asked if Nalbandian would be making an appearance at the first round clash against Italy, Monaco added: "He could be, because Mar Del Plata is a nice city, you have a beach there, nice restaurants so i think we have to invite him to give some tips and advice!"

Regardless of the fact that Argentina is depleted without two of its best players in recent years, Monaco doesn't think his team should be written off.

"Last year we didn’t have Del Potro and also Nalbandian for the last tie and we made the semifinals - it’s a huge result for us. There are many teams with great Federations behind them and they couldn’t win the first tie and we made the semifinals with a humble team. That brings big confidence for us."

Argentina is trying to preserve a fantastic record of always winning its first round tie since returning to the World Group in 2002 and although it's going to be difficult the home crowd could be just as important as having a full-strength team.

They support the Davis Cup like a soccer match," Monaco said. "We live the same way. For us is very important playing beinhd a big crowd. I enjoy it a lot."

Monaco and the crowd will presumably enjoy it a whole lot more if the South Americans win.

Argentina and Italy go head-to-head on 31 January-2 February.

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