SPAIN'S best three tennis players, all seeded in the world top 20, are in Palma preparing for this weekend's Davis Cup quarter final clash against Holland at the Bull Ring. Majorca's Carlos Moya, world number four, and Rafael Nadal, number 18, were out training yesterday along with the other team mates, world number 10, Juan Carlos Ferrero and
Nadal's expected doubles partner, Tommy Robredo.
Spain's team captain, Jordi Arrese, has picked a formidable foursome which includes Ferrero, the reigning Roland Garros Champion, and Moya who won in Paris in 1998. However, all eyes are going to be on youngster Nadal who is the last player to have defeated the world number one Roger Federer.
Robredo is a hugely talented and solid player who, as Nadal's doubles partner, has enjoyed recent success in Dubai and Indian Wells. They've both come along very well, team captain Arrese said after training yesterday. As a doubles pair they've improved a lot this year, it's only natural, they're both still young, he added.
However, the Spanish team captains, Arrese, Juan Avendaño and Josep Perlas, would not confirm speculation that Nadal and Robredo will be paired for the Davis Cup doubles. We and the players know how we will approach this tie, but we will not go public with our formation until Thursday. We don't want to give the Dutch any extra information, Arrese said. What I can confirm is that we've picked the best team and the players are gelling well here in Palma, he said. None of the other players are upset they haven't been picked. They know the score, we (Spain) have got seven or eight top class players and they'll all have a chance to play in the Davis Cup, especially if we progress to the final. They appreciate the situation and they all know they'll get their moment of glory. The Dutch are a very good team and we've had to select ours accordingly. The Dutch have tipped us as favourites, obviously playing on home soil creates a great atmosphere for the players, but I don't think it will motivate them anymore, they're fired up enough as it is, he said. It's going to be a complicated tie, the Dutch have some very good players. Yesterday the players said that there is a great atmosphere in the Spanish camp, Moya and Nadal set up camp at the team's Palma hotel on Saturday, the rest of the team arrived on Sunday. But, joking-apart, all the players know how important this quarter-final tie is and Ferrero is expected to open the tie, playing the first match on Friday morning. Carlos Moya is expected to follow.
Holland's danger man is going to be Raemon Sluiter, the last time the two teams met was in 2001. Sluiter was making his Davis Cup debut and defeated Ferrero. Sjeng Schalken, world number 14, John van Lottum and Martin Verkerk, the world's number 17, are all top players.
Verkerk lost to Ferrero in last year's Roland Garros final while Schalken reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year.
This weekend's clash in Palma will be the eighth time the two countries have clashed in the Davis Cup.
Spain has won five of the previous seven ties but the Dutch have won the last two ties and will be hoping for third time lucky.
Today, the Spanish team will visit Palma Town Hall where they will be met by the Mayor, Catalina Cirer, before giving a team press conference.
The Dutch team is using the early morning session for training at the Bull Ring where the press started to gather yesterday amidst very tight security. Over 250 members of the press are accredited for the event, at least forty from Holland and while a large turnout of Spanish fans is expected, the Dutch team are expecting a good showing from the travelling fans in their orange t-shirts.
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