OROPESA DEL MAR, SPAIN: Nicolas Almagro will get defending champion Spain’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal tie under way when he takes on Austrian No. 1 Jurgen Melzer in Marina d’Or, a small seaside resort north of Valencia on Friday.
The world No. 12 is making just his fifth Davis Cup appearance for Spain and will be wary of Melzer, who defeated him in straight sets in their most recent encounter on clay at Monte Carlo-1000 last year.
“When we played in Monte Carlo he was playing with his best ranking, he was playing really good so it’s a little bit different now but I will need to play my best tennis, be focused all through the match and I need to fight,” said the 26-year-old from Murcia, who already has one clay court title to his name this season after winning at Sao Paulo.
Not only will Melzer be hoping to recreate the kind of form which saw him defeat Almagro last year, he will also be looking to find the same level of play which took him to the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2010 and to a career-high ranking of No. 8 in April 2011. And he will need to if Clemens Trimmel’s men are to have any chance of progressing to their first semifinal since 1990.
“We have a very tough tie ahead of us but being the underdogs is kind of nice,” explained Melzer, who led his team to a first quarterfinal in 17 years with victory over Russia in February. “Expectations from outside are not that high but you still put something on yourself, we want to win here and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Spain have won their last 22 matches at home and that record doesn’t look like ending this weekend. Both Spain’s singles players are ranked in the Top 12, while Austria boasts just one Top 100 player in world No. 21 Melzer. Their second singles player, Andreas Haider-Maurer, checks in at No. 139 but Davis Cup seems to inspire the 25-year-old to produce some of his best tennis and he is not averse to producing the odd upset, none more so than in this year’s first round when he saw off world No. 34 Alex Bogomolov Jr in the opening rubber.
Whether Haider-Maurer can produce another upset this weekend remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely that he will be able to overcome world No. 5 and eight-time clay court titleist David Ferrer, who leads the Spanish team in the absence of the injured Rafael Nadal.
Saturday’s doubles rubber is a more open affair with neither pairing having much experience as a duo. Marc Lopez, who won the Indian Wells-1000 doubles title with Nadal just three weeks ago, and Marcel Granollers have played together in Davis Cup just once before, claiming victory in the first round against Kazakhstan, while Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya have combined twice before in the competition with a win and a loss apiece.
A semifinal tie against either France or USA beckons for the winner of this weekend’s quarterfinal. If it’s Austria it will equal their best ever Davis Cup result, if it’s Spain it means that their unbeaten record at home will be the second best in Davis Cup history and a sixth title will be within touching distance.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Nicolas Almagro (ESP) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
R2: David Ferrer (ESP) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
R3: Marcel Granollers / Marc Lopez (ESP) v Oliver Marach / Alexander Peya (AUT)
R4: David Ferrer (ESP) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
R5: Nicolas Almagro (ESP) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
Follow this tie with live scoring and live streaming:
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Nicolas Almagro (ESP) - 05/04/2012
Captain Alex Corretja (ESP) - 05/04/2012
David Ferrer (ESP) - 05/04/2012
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) - 05/04/2012
Captain Clemens Trimmel (AUT) - 05/04/2012