The Argentine team has appointed its four players to challenge last champions. Series will take place in Buenos Aires from April 4 to 6.
The outstanding series of the forthcoming Davis Cup quarterfinals will be, undoubtedly, the five matches Russian and Argentina will play in Buenos Aires in the first weekend of April. This is the third meeting between these two nations and so far a new derby for the competition.
Argentina and Russia have already appointed their players to obtain a pass to the semi-finals. After the last year’s "Moscow battle" in which the Russians prevailed, Argentina has yet to emerge victorious and, according to specialists, stands for the best chances. Argentina has an excellent record playing at home, thanks to the great experience its players have on the red clay surface.
The team captained by Shamil Tarpishev is expected to arrive in Buenos Aires by this weekend. Tarpishev appointed Marat Safin, Mikhail Youzhny, Igor Andreev and the eternal Yevgeni Kafelnikov to repeat last November performance in Moscow. In turn, Argentina's Gustavo Luza made some changes, taking into account the team that swept Germany 5-0; apart from the top ten David Nalbandian, Luza called on Gaston Gaudio, Lucas Arnodl and Miguel Zabaleta of excellent performance in the beginning of the 2003 season.
The tie is also a rematch of last year's semifinal in Moscow, in which the Russians established a winning three rubbers to one lead before Argentina claimed the final dead rubber. The highlight of the tie, however, was the epic doubles rubber, won by the Argentine pair of Lucas Arnold and David Nalbandian 19-17 in the fifth set after six hours 20 minutes. It was the longest match in Davis Cup since the introduction of the tie break in 1989, yet Marat Safin and David Nalbandian returned to the court the next day to contest the fourth rubber, which Safin won to send Russia to the final.
That semifinal was played indoors on a medium-paced carpet, so Argentina will be hoping to exact revenge on its favored clay courts at home this time around. There may not be any rubbers as close as that doubles in Moscow, but the tie looks finely balanced and could turn out to be the clash of the quarterfinals, analysts say.
Davis Cup is very popular in Argentina. To intimidate Russian players, Argentine organizers have increased the capacity of the stadium in 2,000 seats. The new arena will host a 10,000 noisy multitude as local tennis authorities expect a sold out for the series.
Argentina came back to the world group last year and surprised many reaching the semi-finals. Now, after being ranked fifth by the ATP, is one of the most respected teams of the world. Russia, indeed, is the last champion and will try to advance to revalidate its title.
In other series, France will face Switzerland, Sweden will play against Australia and the Sapinsh team will do the battle with Croatia.
Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina
Photo: Yevgeni Kafelnikov, Russian tennis icon.