The World Group Davis Cup final four will be played this weekend and once again clay reigns. Playing on home on dirt, Spain hosts Team USA while down in South America Czech Republic makes the long trip to Argentina.
Spain will of course be without kingpin Rafael Nadal who remains on the sidelines rehabbing his ailing left knee. Taking his place are veterans David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro. With Andy Roddick retired and Mardy Fish suffering from continued issues related to his heart, John Isner will again lead the American squad along with Sam Querrey and the Bryans who will meet Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez on Saturday.
The U.S. already upset a Swiss team with Roger Federer, and that gives captain Jim Courier plenty of hope as heavy underdogs against Spain.
“The semifinals going to be, well it’s hard to say it’s your biggest challenge yet when we’ve played so many great teams on the road, but this is a team in Spain that hasn’t lost in many, many years when they’ve played at home,” Courier said. “For us this is probably the biggest test in Davis Cup tennis, perhaps for any country to come to Spain and beat them on clay.
“But we like our chances. We don’t feel like we’re the favorites, but we feel like we have a chance and that’s the attitude we’ll take to the court.”
In South America, US Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych will command the Czechs against Juan Martin Del Potro and Juan Monaco. Berdych will be joined by Radek Stepanek and Nadal-killer Lukas Rosol.
“I have the experience from a couple of years ago when I experienced one of the toughest crowds in tennis so we will be ready but probably nothing changed in that time and we expect it to be really loud but that’s how it is, it is a part of Davis Cup,” said Berdych.
Berdych will play Del Potro on Sunday if needed, and the Argentine #1 is still suffering with his wrist.
“I hope my wrist is okay,” Del Potro said. “Still I am feeling little pain but I will still try to manage the painful and play my best tennis here is Buenos Aires.
““I am playing Davis Cup and sometimes you get more energy to play these kinds of matches and the crowd will be fantastic for me and that will help me to fight.”
Tennis Channel will have coverage of the USA-Spain tie from 6am ET Friday morning.
SPAIN v USA
Venue: Parque Hermanos Castro, Gijon, Spain (clay)
Head-to-head: tied 5-5
In 10 previous meetings between these 2 former champions only twice has the away team won – most recently when Spain defeated USA in the 2011 quarterfinals in Austin, Texas. USA will be hoping to avenge that defeat and reach their first final since 2007.
Defending champion SPAIN won their 5th Davis Cup title by defeating Argentina 3-1 in last year’s final in Seville. It was their 3rd title in the last 4 years.
Spain are looking to reach back-to-back Finals for the 3rd time in their history. They also reached back-to-back finals in 2003-04 and 2008-09.
Spain defeated Kazakhstan 5-0 and Austria 4-1 to book their place in the semifinals for the 4th time in the last 5 years. In their last 6 semifinal appearances Spain have progressed to the Final.
USA are playing in their 278th tie – the most for any nation – in their 98th year of Davis Cup competition.
USA jointly hold the record for most World Group appearances (31) with Czech Republic and Sweden. All 3 nations have played in the World Group every year but one since its inception in 1981. USA was absent from the World Group in 1988 and has the longest unbroken streak of World Group appearances (24).
USA whitewashed Switzerland 5-0 and defeated France 3-2 to reach their first semifinal since 2008. That year they lost to this weekend’s opponents on clay in Spain.
R1: David Ferrer (ESP) v Sam Querrey (USA)
R2: Nicolas Almagro (ESP) v John Isner (USA)
R3: Marcel Granollers / Marc Lopez (ESP) v Bob Bryan / Mike Bryan (USA)
R4: David Ferrer (ESP) v John Isner (USA)
R5: Nicolas Almagro (ESP) v Sam Querrey (USA)
ARGENTINA v CZECH REPUBLIC
Venue: Parque Roca, Buenos Aires, Argentina (clay)
Head-to-head: Czech Republic lead 3-1
The 2 teams have met 3 times since the introduction of the World Group, with the home team winning on each of those 3 occasions. Czechoslovakia defeated Argentina on clay in Buenos Aires in an Inter-Zonal semifinal in 1980 that featured a dominant display by Ivan Lendl over Jose-Luis Clerc and Guillermo Vilas.
ARGENTINA are into the semifinals for the 8th time since returning to the World Group in 2002. They have reached the quarterfinals or better every year since 2002. They are looking to reach their 5th final.
Argentina are playing their 3rd consecutive tie this year at Parque Roca in Buenos Aires. They defeated Germany 4-1 and Croatia 4-1 to reach the semifinals.
Argentina are a 4-time runner-up in Davis Cup: in 1981 (l. USA), 2006 (l. Russia), 2008 (l. Spain) and 2011 (l. Spain). Argentina are the only nation to have lost 4 Davis Cup Finals without winning the title.
CZECH REPUBLIC are looking to reach their second Final since the formation of the World Group in 1981. The Czechs reached the final in 2009, losing to Spain on clay in Barcelona.
Before the nation divided into Czech Republic and Slovak Republic, Czechoslovakia won the Davis Cup in 1980, defeating Italy on carpet in Prague in the final.
Czech Republic are making their 31st World Group appearance, the most for any nation along with Sweden and USA. They have competed in the World Group every year with the exception of 2006.
R1: Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) v Radek Stepanek (CZE)
R2: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
R3: Carlos Berlocq / Eduardo Schwank (ARG) v Ivo Minar / Lukas Rosol (CZE)
R4: Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
R5: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Radek Stepanek (CZE)
(Data from ITF)
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