BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Argentina’s 4-1 victory over Croatia this weekend meant a place for the winning team in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals, in September, where Czech Republic appears to be an even more difficult task, even if Parque Roca will be holding the tie once again.
However, the story of the South American team in the competition draws a contradictory painting, especially in the most recent years, since the so called ‘Legion Argentina´ gained a spot back into the World Group in 2001.
The team, now captained by Martin Jaite – a former Top 10 and Davis Cup player – made their way to the semifinal eight times in 11 years, reaching the Final three times, and having never played a play-off from 2002 on. Undoubtedly, it is an impressive record.
Nonetheless, it is another record that bothers the Argentine players and drives the fans crazy. Counting the 1981 Final, Argentina holds the bitter mark of having played the highest number of Finals without getting the title: in 1981 (vs USA), 2006 (vs Russia), 2008 (vs Spain) and 2011 (vs Spain).
What does this long introduction really mean? Exactly that the Davis Cup punchbowl has become an obsession for everybody. Well aware of that is captain Jaite, for whom forming a cohesive group has been a goal from the very beginning.
This is the reason why Argentina is, in fact, a team of five players: Juan Martin del Potro, David Nalbandian, Juan Monaco and Eduardo Schwank, the four that defeated Croatia, and also Juan Ignacio Chela, who replaced an absent del Potro in the first round tie against Germany.
Although the tie against Croatia wasn’t as easy as many of the Argentine fans expected, it showed the potential of the team. Nalbandian lost the first rubber against Marin Cilic in more than five hours, but was able to fight for another five hours the next day with Schwank in the doubles, collecting a vital win over Cilic and Karlovic, which, by the way, meant they remain undefeated as a pair.
Despite not feeling at 100 percent due to sickness and allergies that put him on the verge of being sidelined, del Potro got his job done with the precision of a Swiss watch. He dispatched both Karlovic and Cilic in just 4 hours 38 minutes, combined, less than the length of one of the other live rubbers.
If we take into account that world No. 16 Monaco only played the last (and dead) rubber and Chela remained on the bench, out of the team this time, Argentina appears, once again, as a serious contender for the trophy.
“It’s nice to be in the semifinals again, we’re going to play at home again and it could be a good point. We look forward to win this competition,” said del Potro.
Jaite also analysed briefly what Czech Republic could mean as an opponent. “Berdych and Stepanek are very experienced players. If they are in the semifinals is because they have a very good team. They have beaten Serbia. But we have just finished our tie against Croatia and we can’t think about Czech Republic right now.”
But surprisingly, it was Monaco who painted the most complete canvas of Czech Republic. “Berdych is a solid Top 10, Stepanek was also a Top 10 player and is one of the world’s best doubles players, so they have a great team that we have to respect.
“They are also good on clay,” he continued, “don’t forget that they have just chosen to play on clay against Serbia. They beat us two years ago in Ostrava and it’s going to be nice to have the rematch at home.”