MAR DEL PLATA, ARGENTINA: Italian number two Andreas Seppi will face Argentina's Carlos Berlocq in the opening rubber of the first-round tie of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas in the Argentinean seaside resort of Mar del Plata.
The draw took place today at 11.30am local time on Thursday in the NH Gran Hotel Provincial, an impressive building that dominates the town's seafront.
The match will start on Friday morning at the Adalberto Lugea Municipal Skating Rink, specially turned into a clay court for the Davis Cup tie. The second singles match will be played between Italian number one Fabio Fognini - in the form of his life and currently ranked world number 15 - and Juan Monaco, ranked 40 in the world. Mónaco has, however, beaten Fognini in all three previous meetings.
Saturday's doubles match will see Argentina's Horacio Zeballos and Eduardo Schwank take on Italian counterparts Filippo Volandri and Simone Bolelli before the singles matches are reversed on Sunday.
Argentina's team captain Martín Jaite said that it would be a "very difficult" tie but said that he was confident in his team.
"We are very tough to beat here in Argentina," he added in reference to the often boisterous Argentinean crowd that will be supporting their home players in Mar del Plata, one of the country's most popular seaside getaways during the hot summer months.
Both teams will be defending a rich Davis Cup history with Italy having won the tie once in 1976 and finishing runners-up on six occasions. Argentina, who returned to the World Group in 2002, have never won the cup but have been runners-up four times, most recently in 2011, and have not failed to reach the quarterfinals in 12 years.
After the formalities of last night's opening dinner - a steak main course followed by tango dancing, in true Argentinean fashion - the players are ready for the business end of the tie.
Andreas Seppi said his game against Berlocq would be tough, especially on his favoured clay surface. "The important thing is to feel good and try to be aggressive from the start," he said. Berlocq - who spent several years living in Mar del Plata - called his opponent "a very complete player" and said that he would need to be on his best form from the start.
The Argentinean team is in a process of rebuilding nonetheless and will be without David Nalbandian, the former world number three, who retired in October last year. Current world number four Juan Martín Del Potro also made himself unavailable for the Mar del Plata tie.
"Nalbandian was very important for the team and Del Potro is top four in the world, so it's not easy to play without him," said Argentina's captain Jaite. "But we're four in the team and we have to play without them and believe in our team."
Argentina and Italy have met in the Davis Cup once before in 1983, when Argentina won the tie 5-0. Italy may be favourites on paper but they have also struggled with poor away form, having only won two of their last eight away ties.
"If you look at the ranking perhaps we are favourites but in the Davis Cup it doesn't count too much," said Italy's team captain Corrado Barazzutti. "Argentina knows how to fight."
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Carlos Berlocq (ARG) v Andreas Seppi (ITA)
R2: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Fabio Fognini (ITA)
R3: Eduardo Schwank / Horacio Zeballos (ARG) v Simone Bolelli / Filippo Volandri (ITA)
R4: Carlos Berlocq (ARG) v Fabio Fognini (ITA)
R5: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Andreas Seppi (ITA)
Andreas Seppi (ITA) - 30/01/2014
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 30/01/2014
Juan Monaco (ARG) - 30/01/2014
Captain Martin Jaite (ARG) - 30/01/2014