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October 25 • 01:49
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Friday Cup Rubbers Set in Spain

December 02, 2011
Surprise - it won't be Rafa v Del Potro until Sunday. Instead, #26 Juan Monaco will take on his good friend Rafa and try to become only the second man to take a singles match from Rafa in Davis Cup. As well as Juan played at the end of the year in winning Valencia indoors last month, he has basically no chance. They haven't played on clay since '07, but in two tries, Juan won all of 6 games in 4 sets against Rafa. Though he is credited with beating Rafa the only other time they played, on hard courts in Cincy in '07, Rafa withdrew at 1-4 in the 2nd after losing the first in a breaker.

This may be the only contribution Rafa needs to make to this tie. Since winning Cup matches and the Cup itself isn't new to him, I don't expect him to get the bump in confidence that Joker got from winning Serbia's 1st Cup last year.

Del Potro will have more of a challenge with #6 David Ferrer, or perhaps I should say David will have more of a challenge with #11 Del Potro, who didn't finish the year with any Big Bang, as David did, getting to the Final Four in London.

If Argentina is still breathing after Day 1, Day 2 could put them to permanent rest: Verdasco & Lopez take on Nalbandian and Schwank (more of a doubles player, ranked as high as #14 in doubles this year).

And if somehow Spain hasn't buried them by Sunday, then we'll see Rafa play Delpo for the first time since Wimbledon's 4th round, when Rafa had some tenuous moments in a 4 set victory. If Spain has already iced the Cup and the champagne has flowed, Rafa will be starting the off-season with a phony injury to allow a team-mate to play the hang-over rubber in his stead. The final rubber would be Ferrer and Monaco, unless one of both men bail out also. The fans -who've paid for 3 day seats - will come only for the trophy presentation, glad to have the action shortened to 2 of 3 sets. If anyone isn't yet tired of hearing how anti-climactic the Davis Cup format can be with great match-ups scheduled when they are likely to be meaningless, or reading about all the better ways the Cup could be run which would seem to be in everyone's interest, just wait a few days when the obits on this one may be in. If a final like this can't be exciting outside of the two countries playing and command interest, what can? Featuring four of the best Latin players in the last 50 years, two of the last three US Open title holders, and the best clay court player ever, it can end up a non-event within 8 hours of starting, over before most interested people remember it started (it starts at 8am EST on Friday, and could be over by lunch time: LIVE on The TENNIS CHANNEL).

Odds currently favor Spain by 5/1, which seem to give the home team less of an obvious advantage than I think they have with a home crowd. Perhaps the only advantage the Argentines bring is that they are better rested, whether by strategy or by exclusion from final rounds and the year-end event.

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Rick Devereux

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