Re: Will the Slovaks stop history in the making?
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- Goran Ivanisevic was left out of the lineup Thursday for Croatia's Davis Cup final against Slovakia.
The 34-year-old former Wimbledon champion, who came out of retirement for the Davis Cup, was not selected in the draw for the best-of-five series between the first-time finalists. He could be brought in as a late replacement, however.
Croatia's top player, Ivan Ljubicic, will oppose Karol Beck, Slovakia's No. 2, in the opening singles Friday. Mario Ancic of Croatia will play Dominik Hrbaty in the second match.
In Saturday's doubles, Beck and Mihal Mertinak are scheduled to face Ljubicic and Ancic. Team captains can change their lineups until one hour before play.
The reverse singles are scheduled for Sunday: Hrbaty vs. Ljubicic, and Beck vs. Ancic.
Ljubicic will be seeking to tie John McEnroe's record of 12 Davis Cup victories in a single year: eight singles and four doubles. McEnroe did it in 1982, leading the United States to victory over France in the final.
Ljubicic won decisive matches as Croatia eliminated the United States, Romania and Russia. Slovakia beat defending champion Spain, the Netherlands and Argentina.
Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon in 2001 as a wild card, retired from ATP singles play four years ago because of a chronic shoulder injury. He last played Davis Cup -- in doubles -- in 2003. He made a brief return to the tour in 2004, advancing to the third round at Wimbledon.
With or without Ivanisevic, Croatia got the draw it wanted.
"I think for us it's better that Ljubicic plays first," captain Nikki Pilic said. "If Croatia leads 1-0, I think there would be more pressure on Hrbaty."
Beck has been bothered by a left-knee injury and has not played a competitive match in a month.
"But I've been practicing. I've been hitting the ball well over the last two weeks," he said. "My knee was aching quite a lot but over the last days, things have improved significantly."
Beck has faced unconfirmed reports that he failed a drug test during Slovakia's semifinal win over Argentina. The Slovak denied Thursday that he had tested positive. The International Tennis Federation said it had no comment.
Slovakia captain Miloslav Mecir said the issue had disturbed the team.
"Definitely, it brings an element of discomfort to the team, to the spirit of the team," he said. "But we will try to overcome it."
The final will produce a fifth different winner in the past five years.
The United States holds the record with 31 titles, three more than Australia.