No Nadal but Alcaraz set to shine in Spain Davis Cup defence
Holders In the absence of Rafa Nadal, Spain will have the chance to defend their Davis Cup title as the competition starts in yet another new format this week across three European locations, with all eyes on youngster Carlos Alcaraz.
After an arduous week at Madrid’s Caja Magica two years ago, a Nadal-inspired Spain won the inaugural edition of the new team tournament.
Last year’s 18-nation Davis Cup Finals were cancelled due to the epidemic, but the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and partners Kosmos Tennis have since worked to make the tournament more doable, adding Turin and Innsbruck as co-hosts.
The 18 finalists will participate in six groups of three starting on Thursday, with eight qualifying for the knockout rounds and the final on December 5 in Madrid.
However, with Austria’s restoration of a lockdown, the spectre of COVID-19 has resurfaced, and the two groups competing in Innsbruck will have no fans cheering them on.
The revised Davis Cup Finals in Madrid in 2019 had an auspicious beginning, but it was marred by very late ends to ties (comprising two singles and one double) and modest audiences for some matches, which is why it has been stretched to ten days over three nations this time.
In Madrid, though, Spain will feel quite at home with Group A, which features a strong Russian squad and Ecuador.
They will be without talisman Nadal, who is still recovering from a foot injury. Instead, all eyes will be on Alcaraz, the 18-year-old who is widely expected to fill the vacuum left by 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal’s retirement.
Roberto Bautista Agut, one of the heroes of 2019 when Spain overcame Canada in the final, will be joined by Pablo Carreno Busta, Feliciano Lopez, and Marcel Granollers, who will be making their debuts in the competition.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I was a youngster,” Alcaraz, the world number 32, said this week.
“It will be a tremendous test because only one team from each group will advance, and Russia has a fantastic team, but I have a lot of faith in the Spanish team.”
Against Friday, Spain takes on Ecuador.
Britain, who were semi-finalists in 2019, are missing Andy Murray, but with Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans in good form, they should be able to advance from Group C, which also includes France and the Czech Republic.
The US, who have won the Davis Cup a record 32 times, is in Group E in Turin with Italy and Colombia.
Australia’s Davis Cup heavyweights will face Croatia and Hungary in Group D, while Canada, Sweden, and Kazakhstan will compete in Group B.