Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: At the rise of the Donald Duck Slam
From official site:
Feb 6, 2003, after the draw:
Mikhail Youzhny leads Russia in Ostrava
Mikhail Youzhny, hero of last year's final against France in Paris, leads the Russian team in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie against the Czech Republic in Ostrava.
"But I am not the number one in our team. Marat Safin is not here because of his injury, but we still have Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the team. I am number one only for the first day," explained the world No. 27 after the draw ceremony, where he found out he had to play the second match on Friday against Radek Stepanek, currently ranked No. 55. "I beat him in Doha in two sets but it was really a bad match from Stepanek.”
Although being nominated as the team's number one for the first time in his career, Youzhny was not the main focus of attention at the draw ceremony. The nomination of Nikolay Davydenko, currently ranked No. 62, to play singles on day one was the biggest surprise.
The expectations were that Milan finalist Yevgeny Kafelnikov would be team leader, but the decision of captain Shamil Tarpischev was different. Davydenko would play the singles and Kafelnikov, together with Youzhny, was nominated for doubles against one of the tour’s most experienced pairings, Martin Damm and Cyril Suk. The Czechs are set to make only their second Davis Cup appearance together after a gap of eight years.
"I have to thank Tarpischev for nominating me. I am in a team for the first time and I should play a match. It is a big honour for me," said Davydenko.
But changes can still be made to nominations for Sunday's matches. “The fact that Yevgeny is not playing on Friday doesn't mean that he will not play on Sunday. We can still change a nomination," Tarpischev said. The Russian captain chose Davydenko, the winner of this year's tournament in Adelaide, for singles a few days ago, before the Russian team arrived in Ostrava on Monday.
"I don't feel healthy enough to play three best-of-five sets matches," said Kafelnikov, the only player who remembers the last match between Russia and Czech Republic in St Petersburg in 1994, when Russia won 3-2. "It was a tough match and this one will be very similar.”
Kafelnikov’s nomination only for doubles surprised his Czech opponents. Czech captain Robert Krechler said: “I knew about the possibility of Davydenko playing singles but I wasn't thinking much of it. But it is true that Kafelnikov was not the best Russian in a practise."
In Friday’s opening singles rubber, Davydenko will face world No. 10 Jiri Novak. The 2002 Australian Open semifinalist said: "I didn't think that Yevgeny wouldn't play at all. He was there practising with the team whole week. He is not a kind of player coming for a Davis Cup tie without playing in it. Maybe he is not in a good shape, maybe he doesn't believe in himself, who knows. But I still think that the Russian team is the favourite."