Belgium has opted to sit veteran Olivier Rochus in favor of the untested Ruben Bemelmans when their tie against Spain begins tomorrow. The 144th-ranked Bemelmans will have the home crown on his side in Charleroi but he’ll take on a healthy and motivated world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
“I’m [feeling] fine,” said Nadal who hasn’t played since his injury loss (corrected from retirement) to David Ferrer in the Australian Open quarterfinals. “If I was not perfect I would not be here to compete. I’ve been practicing a lot, but have also had time to spend with my friends and family.”
Ferrer will open the tie against Xavier Malisse. Spain won the Davis Cup four times in the last decade and they are eager for a fifth.
“We always try our best,” Nadal said. “We don’t have more motivation now just because we lost in the quarterfinals last year.”
SPAIN V. BELGIUM SCHEDULE
R1: Xavier Malisse (BEL) v David Ferrer (ESP)
R2: Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) v Rafael Nadal (ESP)
R3: Xavier Malisse/Olivier Rochus (BEL) v Feliciano Lopez/Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
R4: Xavier Malisse (BEL) v Rafael Nadal (ESP)
R5: Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) v David Ferrer (ESP)
If Spain wins they could collide with the U.S. on American soil in July. The U.S. and new captain Jim Courier are in Santiago to take on a depleted Chilean squad who is minus their star Fernando Gonzalez.
Andy Roddick and John Isner will lead the way for Team USA against Nicolas Massu and Paul Capdeville. Still, even without Gonzalez, Chilean captain Hans Gildemeister sounds hopeful.
“Nicolas Massu has been practicing the whole week at the same time we play,” Gildemeister said. “I think it’s a good draw for us because Andy Roddick has a lot of pressure to beat Nicolas because he’s ranked No. 8 and has a very good Davis Cup record.
“Nicolas is going to fight and not give any points away and I think the way he has played the last few days, he can do some damage to Andy.”
Said Courier, “I think I’m the right amount of nervous. I have that excited kind of nervous which is what I’d expect to have at the moment. I’m not sure what I’ll exactly feel like tomorrow when we walk out there but it’ll be a different experience. I’ve thought a lot about it.”
Tennis Channel will have coverage of the USA tie. And I’ll have my Davis Cup preview and picks later today.
USA v. CHILE SCHEDULE
R1: Nicolas Massu (CHI) v Andy Roddick (USA)
R2: Paul Capdeville (CHI) v John Isner (USA)
R3: Jorge Aguilar/Nicolas Massu (CHI) v Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA)
R4: Paul Capdeville (CHI) v Andy Roddick (USA)
R5: Nicolas Massu (CHI) v John Isner (USA)
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