BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: A long awaited moment for the Argentine crowd will be realised tomorrow at Parque Roca’s Mary Teran de Weiss stadium, in Buenos Aires, when Juan Martin del Potro finally makes his return to the Davis Cup team.
But everybody will have to wait a little longer, as Juan Monaco is going to be the one to play the opening rubber for Argentina in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal tie against Kazakhstan.
Monaco takes on Andrey Golubev, Kazakhstan’s No. 1 player, before former world No. 4 del Potro faces Mikhail Kukushkin in day one action.
Yesterday, while the rest of the nations involved in the quarterfinal ties were about to enjoy the delights of the traditional official dinner, Argentina and Kazakhstan players had butterflies in their stomach.
But it was not hunger for food: they were ready to start the fight a day ahead in the cold Buenos Aires, due to next Sunday’s local elections for Mayor in the capital city of the South American country.
The return of the ‘Tower’
Del Potro comes back after a two-year absence from Davis Cup competition. His last tie had been the 2009 quarterfinal clash between Argentina and Czech Republic, in Ostrava, where the two singles victories of the ‘Tower of Tandil’ couldn’t avoid a 3-2 defeat of his team.
“I feel glad to be back with the team,” said the man who is going to be the No. 1 player of Argentina, as Juan Ignacio Chela – the highest ranked player in the team – will only be part of the doubles team with Eduardo Schwank.
“I had a really bad year last season, but I’ve made a great comeback and right now I have the possibility to play for Argentina in Davis Cup. It is always special not only for me, but for the whole team to play in front of our crowd. Hopefully we will enjoy the matches and try to win.”
Has DelPo been thinking about the moment when he enters the court? “Not yet. I feel a little nervous, but I will be ready to fight tomorrow.”
On the other hand, Argentina can’t count on David Nalbandian this time, due to an adductor strain suffered during Wimbledon. Nevertheless, he is expected to be part of the supporting crowd tomorrow, as well as former Davis Cup players Agustin Calleri and Guillermo Coria.
A cold tie
The low temperatures have been an issue during practice days in Parque Roca. Such is the cold weather that the referee, Andreas Egli, has decided to postpone tomorrow’s matches one hour so the courts can be ready and the players have enough time to warm up. In this sense, first day action will begin at 11am local time (2pm GMT).
“The cold weather does affect. The surface is, maybe, quite harder. The ball becomes harder and it doesn’t bounce as lively as it usually does”, said Tito Vazquez, Argentina’s captain.
“We started practicing with lesser temperatures. Now is much warmer, even this morning, but ITF has decided to change the starting time. I think it’s better for the whole team not to get injured during the morning time,” added Yegor Shaldunov, Kazakhstan’s captain.
Argentina, the favourite
As it usually happens when Argentina plays at home on clay, the odds are in their favour. The last time Argentina lost a tie at home on clay was in 1998, 3-2 against Slovakia, not including the 1998 Davis Cup final against Spain, which was played on hard.
“We have to respect Kazakhstan, anyway”, said Monaco. “They have defeated Czech Republic and they are not going to be easy”.
The Kazakhstani team has collected only three wins during this year’s clay court season at ATP level tournaments, and all of them belong to Mikhail Kukushkin. Andrey Golubev lost his ten matches on clay courts so far this season.
The most significant results came at Challenger level, where Yuriy Schukin lifted the trophy in Prostejov. The oldest member of the Kazakhstani team, at 32, will team up with Evgeny Korolev in Friday’s doubles match.
“It will not be easy. The pressure is always the same for the whole team,” said Shaldunov, while Kukushkin, who will face del Potro tomorrow, added: “I think it is going to be tough for us. Argentina is a very good team, has strong players, for us is a really good challenge. And del Potro is a top player, former Top 5 player. Of course it is going to be a tough match, but I’m not afraid. I’ll try to do my best to win.”
As it is the debut season that Kazakhstan is playing in the World Group, it will be the first encounter between the two nations.
The full draw is listed below.
R1: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Andrey Golubev (KAZ)
R2: Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)
R3: Juan Ignacio Chela / Eduardo Schwank (ARG) v Evgeny Korolev / Yuriy Schukin (KAZ)
R4: Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) v Andrey Golubev (KAZ)
R5: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)
Watch this tie live at: DavisCup.tv
Juan Monaco (ARG) - 06/07/2011
Andrey Golubev (KAZ) - 06/07/2011
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) - 06/07/2011
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) - 06/07/2011
Captain Tito Vazquez (ARG) - 06/07/2011
Captain Yegor Shaldunov (KAZ) - 06/07/2011