Sanchez Confident of Spain's Chances
Juan Carlos Ferrero might mark 2004 down as one of the more difficult years of his career, but former Spanish favourite Emilio Sanchez warned that he could still have a major part to play in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas.
With Spain taking on France at the weekend, Ferrero's form and fitness mean that he is not a certainty to occupy one of the two singles berths. The Spaniard has struggled all year to shake off rib and wrist problems, and with Carlos Moya, Tommy Robredo and young Rafael Nadal all waiting in the wings, the pressure is on for him to prove himself.
According to Sanchez, he is worth waiting for.
“Even if Ferrero is struggling a little bit because of the injuries he has been getting, for the Davis Cup he is going to be ready,” said Sanchez.
“I would wait. If he is ready on clay he is still a big force.”
Whether or not the 24-year-old Spaniard does make the singles slot, Sanchez believes Spain are the firm favourites to win.
“I would be very, very surprised if Spain lost,” he said.
“France always have a good doubles team, they always have a good team-spirit and they achieve results away many times which no-one expects - like when they won the final away in Australia.
“But Spain is really a power today, and we have four players that could win matches against France. I would be surprised if France wins – I think Spain is a big favourite, and with Moya in such great shape we have a great chance.”
And, if Spain is a power today, Sanchez shudders to think what they might become.
In charge of his own tennis academy, the Spaniard gets to see the amount of promising juniors coming through with his own eyes.
“At the last futures tournament in Alicante, from 120 in the qualifying, 90 guys were from Spain,” said Sanchez. “So, from 90 guys at future level, unless we do something bad, something good is going to come from that.”
But why is there so many of them?
“Spain has always been a country that produces players because of the way we work,” says Sanchez. “We produce disciplined players - hard workers who are not spoiled, and there is a lot of competition. When the competition is there, if you lie down, the other guys pass over the top of you.”
It is a mantra that always served Sanchez well in his career.
These days he still plays on the Delta Tour of Champions, but when he looks back, it is the Davis Cup that provides his best memories.
“For me it was incredible – the best feeling I had,” he said.
“It was always great pride, a great atmosphere and if you were playing at home there was big pressure. Everybody was behind you. The difference with the normal tour was that there were people that liked you, and people that didn’t like you, but in Davis Cup, because of the national pride, even if they didn’t like you they were with you.”