World No. 19 David Nalbandian will once again lead Argentina this weekend in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas 2011 first round tie against Romania, in Buenos Aires. All eyes will be on him as he will play the opening rubber in Friday’s action against Adrian Ungur, ranked No. 183 in the world. Juan Monaco will follow, taking on Romanian No. 1 Victor Hanescu.
Nalbandian, one of the best Argentine players in Davis Cup history, is still recovering from an hernia, and he admitted he is not in his best shape, but still able and willing to play, as the traditional nation’s competition is a great motivation for him. The winner of this tie will have home advantage in the quarterfinals against the winner of Czech Republic v Kazakhstan.
Injuries and confidence
Tomorrow’s first match will be a clash of opposites, as Nalbandian has a 31-10 overall winning record in Davis Cup since his debut in 2002, against a 2-1 record from Ungur (only in singles matches), who played for the first time last year.
Although he is still recovering from a painful injury, Nalbandian feels he is ready for the fight. “I feel good. I’m not at a 100 percent, but good enough. Davis Cup is completely different from the tour… the pressure, the people, the team. I enjoy very much playing in front of my own crowd”, said Argentina’s No. 1.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s captain, Tito Vazquez, admitted the injuries and absences still bother him. “You never get used to that. I hope it would never happen. But that is the way it’s been going for the last couple of years. A lot of players got injured and we have to deal with it”, said Vazquez.
Vazquez added that the team confidence is at a high level, and he knows that “playing at home is an advantage, but also a responsibility”.
Nothing to lose
Although Argentina seems to be almost unbeatable at home, Romanian captain Andrei Pavel will rely on the strength and good preparation of his team. “Argentina is the favourite, for sure. As we know, the crowd can get behind really bad, especially in such an event like Davis Cup, but I believe in my team, I believe in my players. They’ve worked hard the last couple of weeks”, said Pavel.
Victor Hanescu should be the key of Romanian chances as he is set to play on all three days. Curiously, he has no negative records against the Argentine team: he leads 4-0 against Chela and 1-0 against Nalbandian, and is 1-1 against Schwank and Friday’s opponent Monaco.
“I would have preferred to play the first match, but in the end it is almost the same. I want to give Romania the point. I feel good right now, after a couple of weeks playing in South America to adapt to the conditions and the surface”.
Romania returns to the World Group after last year absence.
An unwanted record
Despite Argentina and Romania having played Davis Cup since the 1920s, this is only their second meeting. Argentina won the previous encounter 3-2 in the World Group quarterfinals in 1981, in Timisoara.
Both nations met in Mary Terán de Weiss stadium in a clash between two of the three nations that hold the record for having reached the Davis Cup Final the most times without winning the title. Both nations, as well as India, have appeared in three Davis Cup Finals without once winning the trophy.
The last time Argentina played at home was in 2009 first round victory against Netherlands. Since returning to the World Group, in 2002, Argentina has never lost in the first round and has an 11-1 record as the home team. Their only loss came in the 2008 Davis Cup Final, against Spain, in Mar del Plata, also the only time Argentina played outside Buenos Aires.
The full draw is listed below.
R1: David Nalbandian (ARG) v Adrian Ungur (ROU)
R2: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Victor Hanescu (ROU)
R3: Juan Ignacio Chela/Eduardo Schwank (ARG) v Victor Hanescu/Horia Tecau (ROU)
R4: David Nalbandian (ARG) v Victor Hanescu (ROU)
R5: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Adrian Ungur (ROU)