Romania will go into this weekend’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off with Ecuador as firm favourites after the visitors revealed their highest-ranked and most experienced player, Nicolas Lapentti, will be forced to miss this weekend’s singles.
Despite the former top ten player’s ongoing battle to recover from a knee injury, he arrived in the Romanian capital Bucharest hopeful that he could lead his nation’s challenge on the singles court. But at the official draw ceremony on Thursday Ecuador captain Raul Viver confirmed that his star man would feature only in Saturday’s doubles alongside younger brother Giovanni.
Even with Lapentti senior fit, the Romanians would have been confident of ending the weekend triumphant, but without him home captain Andrei Pavel’s squad – which includes world No. 54 Victor Hanescu and recent Wimbledon doubles runner-up Horia Tecau – should be feeling very confident about their chances of securing World Group tennis in 2011.
Hanescu begins home challenge
It will be Romanian No. 1 Hanescu who will first take to the purpose-built outdoor clay court at the Centrul National de Tenis on Friday when he opens the tie against the South American team’s No. 2 Ivan Endara, before the home side’s No. 2, Adrian Ungur, takes on the visitors’ stand-in No. 1 Giovanni Lapentti.
Saturday’s doubles will see the Lapenttis team up to face Hanescu and doubles specialist Tecau, who has five ATP World Tour doubles titles to his name already this year. Sunday’s order of play sheet sees Hanescu up against Giovanni Lapentti in the first rubber of the day with Ungur and Endara bringing the tie to a close.
After a four-month break from the tour, Nicolas Lapentti said he had targeted the tie against Romania as the week he would return to competitive tennis, but admitted his efforts to be fit enough to play singles came up short. “For the last five or six months it’s been getting worse,” he admitted.
“After the French Open I did everything I could do to try to recover to get ready for this tie. My hopes were to be ready and even coming into this week I thought I could improve a lot but in the last few days I realised I couldn’t be ready to play singles over five sets. I’m going to try to be kind of an assistant coach during the singles and to win a point in the doubles.”
The news left the team’s captain, Viver, hoping that merely the presence of Nicolas will inspire his younger brother, ranked No. 283 in the world, and world No. 480 Endara when they step on court.
“They’re going to benefit from Nico’s experience and his advice,” Viver insisted. “He’s been on the Davis Cup team for so many years and has so much experience. Many of our kids have benefited from watching him playing Davis Cup tennis.”
Romanians have eye on World Group
Not surprisingly, the news boosted the spirits of the Romanians and when the draw placed Hanescu alongside Endara – a player ranked over 400 places below him – in the first match of the weekend, the Romanian No.1 was understandably delighted.
“It’s very good for us that Nicolas is not playing singles and it’s an advantage for us that I’m playing a young guy – Endara – in the first match,” the 6ft 6” right-hander said. “I hope to win my first match easily because it’s important to stay fresh for the rest of the weekend.”
Team captain Pavel also acknowledged that the absence of Lapentti was a huge blow for the visitors, but was quick to point out that his team would still have to work hard over the next three days.
“Nico has been their No. 1 player for so many years and an excellent top ten player, so that puts our chances much higher than before but you have to take every match seriously and nobody is going to give it to you,” Pavel said.
“We hope to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s huge. Davis Cup gives the sport a push in our country and to play in the top 16 nations in the world is amazing – I miss it a lot myself!”
The full draw is as follows:
Victor Hanescu (ROU) v Ivan Endara (ECU)
Adrian Ungur (ROU) v Giovanni Lapentti (ECU)
Victor Hanescu/Horia Tecau (ROU) v Giovanni Lapentti/Nicolas Lapentti (ECU)
Victor Hanescu (ROU) v Giovanni Lapentti (ECU)
Adrian Ungur (ROU) v Ivan Endara (ECU)