Argentina at Croatia
Posted on April 04, 2006
Site: DOM Sportova, Zagreb, Croatia
Surface: Indoor carpet (Taraflex)
Ball: Pro Penn ATP
Remember when Argentina was a Davis Cup force? Probably not, because they really never have been -- barely a blip on the radar since the World Group was created in 1981.
It was back in '81 that the Gauchos reached their lone Davis Cup World Group final, with Guillermo Vilas and Jose-Luis Clerc stopped by the U.S. squad of John McEnroe and Roscoe Tanner. McEnroe as usual did the heavy lifting, winning both his singles and the doubles with Peter Fleming to clinch the tie 3-1.
The Argentines managed a semifinal in '83 and a quarterfinal in '84 before getting bounced from the World Group in 1988-89, and during a nine-year stretch from 1993-2001.
The year 2002 seemed to mark a Davis Cup resurgence for Argentina with players such as Gaston Gaudio, Guillermo Canas, and Juan Ignacio Chela in the mix
, and Guillermo Coria brought on in 2004. But while the Argentines have maintained World Group status since 2002, between injuries and opponents putting them on slick surfaces they've been unable to fare any better than the semifinals, still without a championship-round berth since 1981.
This weekend the trend continues in Croatia.
Ivan Ljubicic is coming off the event in Miami where he nearly dispatched of the entire Argentine Davis Cup team en route to the final. The service bomb-dropping Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic will fill the No. 2 singles spot as the Gauchos again facing a weekend on ice-fast indoor carpet.
The Croats will perform in both singles and doubles, while Argentina will front David Nalbandian, and either Agustin Calleri or Chela in singles, and a doubles combination likely including Juan Acasuso.
For the Croats a win would be sweet revenge from their last meeting in the 2002 quarterfinals, where the Argentines rolled out their favored mud-slow red clay, but still needed the final singles match to clinch as Gaudio straight-setted Croat "Dr." Ivo Karlovic
. Due to what seems to be a dispute with the Croat Federeration over money, or with captain Ljubicic, or both, Karlovic is not on Croatia's quarterfinal squad.
"Overall in the series, I think it's absolutely open," says Ljubicic who anticipates a tight tie. "I think doubles, it's gonna be very important because David (Nalbandian), the way he plays now, it's going to be very hard to beat him. I think it's definitely the best match of the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup...(Calleri) has a big game. He's a very dangerous opponent.
Compounding problems for Argentina is the absence of one of their best fast-court players, Guillermo Coria, who remains at No. 7 on the ATP Rankings with a lowly 4-4 record in 2006. The confidence-challenged former French Open runner-up has gone into seclusion with new coach Jose Higueras, practicing for what he hopes will be a coming-out party during the claycourt season.