Bruguera: For Italy to choose to play on clay is amazing to me
Former French Open champion Sergi Bruguera could barely believe his nation’s luck when he saw that Italy had chosen to play their play-off against Spain on clay.
Spain, who lifted last year’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas having beaten the Netherlands, France and the United States at home on their favourite surface, boast French Open champion Rafael Nadal, former winner Juan Carlos Ferrero and a host of other clay court specialists on their team.
According to Bruguera, the surface choice will help Spain to bounce back from the disappointment of failing to defend their title.
“It’s another year, another story and every Davis Cup tie has a lot of pressure,” said Bruguera.
“Everyone wants their country to do well, no matter whether it’s first round, seimifinal or a Play-off. For Italy to choose to play on clay is amazing to me. I think now they have very little chance to win.”
The Spaniard also paid tribute to his young countryman Nadal, who picked up his tenth title of the year with his hard-court victory in Beijing recently.
“Nadal reminds me of Thomas Muster at his best,” said Bruguera, who spent a decade duelling with the Austrian for the label ‘King of Clay’.
“He [Nadal] doesn’t have a weak point – you have to push him all the time and play your best throughout to stand a chance.”
But Bruguera warned that the 19-year-old might find things more difficult in 2006.
“The first year, when you come along like he did, you have all the confidence in the world and everyone is afraid of you. It is the second year that is tougher. Next year he still going to be at or near the top, but people won’t be quite so afraid of him.”
In his own Davis Cup career, Bruguera didn’t always enjoy the way the nation’s spotlight was focused so relentlessly on him.
“It’s tough, it’s difficult, and there’s a lot of pressure,” he said.
“In Davis Cup, the media and the people take it more personally. If you lose in a normal tournament they don’t care so much, but if you lose in Davis Cup they take it personally. You have to live with it.”
These days, without the stress of a professional career, he is a much more relaxed personality.
He also has longer, shoulder length hair, but he is still as fit as ever.
As well as playing on the Delta Tour of Champions (he finished third last week in Paris), Bruguera is a keen football player – and has even played to a professional standard in a Spanish third division team.
Having spent so long travelling and playing tennis for a living, he prefers to spend more time at home, watching his favourite football club Barcelona whenever he can.