Swiss Davis Cup team upbeat despite absence of Federer
Tue Feb 6, 2007
By Mark Ledsom
GENEVA, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Switzerland's Davis Cup team say they are ready to make life difficult for Spain this weekend, despite going into their World Group first-round encounter without the services of Roger Federer.
The world number one is once again skipping the competition's opening round to concentrate on his own flourishing career, leaving compatriots Stanislas Wawrinka, Marco Chiudinelli, Yves Allegro and Stephane Bohli to take on a powerful Spanish team led by world number two Rafael Nadal.
"Having the world number one playing for us would of course be a big advantage," Switzerland captain Severin Luethi said on Tuesday. "Without Federer, the Spanish are going to start as clear favourites, especially when you look at their rankings.
"But we have seen many times that anything is possible in the Davis Cup. We have home advantage, the choice of playing surface and a Swiss crowd behind us so I'm sure it won't be easy for Spain this weekend."
Wawrinka, ranked 32nd in the world, will carry the weight of his country's expectations against the three-times Davis Cup champions.
If the tie has not been decided by Saturday, Wawrinka could face a crunch meeting with Nadal on Sunday -- just three weeks after losing 6-2 6-2 6-2 to the Spaniard in the third round of the Australian Open.
"I think with the fast carpet surface in Geneva things will be very different if we meet again here," Wawrinka said. "But (as Switzerland's top seed) I'm not going to be playing Nadal on the first day and that's all we're concentrating on now."
Unlike Wawrinka, Swiss doubles specialist Yves Allegro has recent history on his side, having paired up with France's Fabrice Santoro last week to beat Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the Zagreb ATP tournament.
"It's a different surface, a different competition and it's the Davis Cup, so we shouldn't read too much into it," said Allegro who is likely to play alongside Wawrinka against the same opposition on Saturday.
"But I'm happier to have beaten them last week than to have lost because it will give us some confidence that we can win here in Geneva."
A more unusual challenge facing the Swiss is the number of left-handers in the Spanish team, with Nadal, Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez outnumbering sole right-hander David Ferrer.
Luethi said his team had brought in two left-handed "sparring partners", including Wawrinka's manager Gregory Zavialoff, as part of their preparations for the tie.