Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Little House on the Prairie
Re: 2005 Cheering Thread
Davydenko poses Croatia threat
Croatia stand tantalisingly close to their first Davis Cup final this week, hosting a Russia team weakened by the absence of Marat Safin. Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic will be favourites to steer Croatia into the but in Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny Russia still present a formidable hurdle.
World number seven Davydenko has never lost a Tour match to either Ancic or Ljubicic, while Youzhny became a national hero in 2002 when he clawed back a two-set deficit against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu to land Russia a first title.
Russia's Shamil Tarpischev also has the incentive of becoming the first captain to land the Fed Cup and Davis Cup in the same year following the women's triumph over France last week.
Local boy Ancic, however, says form and statistics will count for nothing when the tie gets under way on Friday.
"I am very well prepared, I'm in good physical shape," Ancic told reporters in the Gripe Sports Hall, just a short stroll from the family home. "There will be a great atmosphere, it will be a great feeling and we don't want to waste it."
Ljubicic, the team's most experienced player, added: "All the singles will be very close. Davydenko is a dangerous player but the surface is not his best, it will suit Youzhny more. Whatever, the tie won't be decided before Sunday."
The 21-year-old Ancic, who was nurtured as a junior by Croatian sporting icon and fellow Split resident, former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, is under pressure after defeats by Andy Roddick and Andrei Pavel in the Davis Cup victories over the U.S. and Romania this year.
"I lost the opening singles here against Romania in five sets, but I will try to use that experience to my benefit," said Ancic, who partnered Ljubicic to crucial doubles victories in both matches. "I just hope I get the win on Friday."
French Open semi-finalist Davydenko stirred things up when he said Croatia could benefit from home-based line judges.
"(Croatia's) main advantage will be the line officials," Davydenko told reporters, referring to a defeat by Ancic in a lower-tier tournament in Zagreb several years ago when he believed he "was robbed" by poor line calls.
"The other big factors for them will be the home crowd and the fast surface."
Pilic is unlikely to call upon the giant serving Ivo Karlovic, unless either Ancic or Ljubicic suffer an injury or fatigue, although he playfully offered his thoughts on Russia's options.
"They are definitely weaker without Safin," he said, "and I don't expect Youzhny to play all three matches because he has trouble with his knee. I'm not sure he'll play the doubles."
Youzhny, who laughed off suggestions he had a bad knee, is a regular doubles player for Russia, usually with Safin. Tarpischev is likely to partner him with Igor Andreev on Saturday, although he knows if Russia are to win, they will probably have to capture three of the four singles rubbers.
"It will be hard without Safin but we will deal with what we have," he said. "Little things will prove decisive."