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October 25 • 01:30
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Davis Cup 2012 will be VERY different (an Olympic Year, politically speaking)

December 05, 2011
RAFA led his team to their 3rd Cup victory on Sunday, clinching the deciding point himself for the first time in their three wins (on the same court where against the USA in 2004 he helped Spain win the first of his 3 Cups). The win seemed to restore Rafa's passion for the game, which he confesses to have been muted recently by the length of the season, a topic he has returned to at every opportunity on the last few months - and for good reason: not only is the season too long, but he has played too many matches in it, more than most other top players. This feeling was at the heart of his announcement yesterday in Sevilla that he would NOT be retuning to play Davis Cup in 2012 as it was an Olympic year:

"It seems impossible to play with it being an Olympic year," Nadal said. "It's quite a few years running now that I'm the player with the most games played per season. It's going to be difficult. Thank God, Spain has a wealth of talented players that can fill in and play well."

Although he then remarked that he expects Spain to still be a contender because of their depth, he may well be leading by example: his three team-mates in Sevilla, Ferrer, Lopez and Verdasco, each hinted they might be passing on Cup action as well. Ferrer:

"I want to be in London next year so it looks difficult. It's not going to be easy to get us four together again."

Perhaps the ATP Players Council meeting that never took place in Asia didn't need to happen because the players agreed behind the scenes to speak with their actions next year rather than wrangle endlessly mano-a-mano with the governing bodies. After all, they are men of action, and such off court business can be an enormous distraction from the focus they need to train and win.

Watch for the other top players who have filled their Olympic requirement by playing Davis Cup this year to follow Rafa's leadership before the start of the season, regardless of the depth or lack thereof of players to replace them. Joker and Tipsarevic? No way. Federer and Wawrinka? Forget them. Del Potro and Monaco? While this might make 2012 their year for a badly wanted first Cup title, will they be willing to sacrifice their chances in London for a run at an Olympic medal?

We'll see. One top dog who won't have to make a choice is Andy Murray (the Brits are no where near the World Group competition, thanks to his having sat out so often in the past). My hunch is it could be the year for Kazakhstan, who starts their Cup quest in Spain in 2012. Why would a great Cup squad even be interested in a Cup title against second tier teams?

More seriously, the World Group 2012 competition will Spain, Argentina, Serbia, France (Tsonga, Simon), the USA (Fish, Roddick), Sweden (Soderling), Germany (Mayer, Petzschner) and Kazakhstan (Golubev, Kukushkin) along with the teams that qualified from this year's World Group Play-Off:

- The Czech Republic (Berdych, Stepanek)

- Croatia (Cilic, Ljubicic)

- Canada (Raonic)

- Russia (Youzhny)

- Italy (Bellucci, Seppi)

- Japan (Nishikori)

- Austria (Melzer)

- The Swiss

Regardless, most fans won't lose any sleep over the Cup one way or the other. Of more interest is what condition Joker's shoulder will be in, and whether Rafa will try for one more career year.

Rafa: "We gave everything, it was a very emotional victory at the end of a tough year," Nadal told the host television broadcaster. "Winning in this way, we are very grateful to all the people of Spain. It was the best atmosphere I have experienced in my career."

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