Spain v Belgium: Spaniards Put Big Guns Out
Clay court ace Juan Carlos Ferrero will lead off a strong Spanish challenge in the 2003 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas on Friday, taking on Christophe Rochus of Belgium in the opening singles rubber of their first-round World Group tie in Seville.
Thursday’s draw in the Andalucian city also matched up former French Open champion Carlos Moya with Belgian number one Xavier Malisse in the second singles on Friday.
Albert Costa will partner Alex Corretja in the doubles against Kristof Vliegen and Olivier Rochus on Saturday, with the reverse singles set for Sunday.
Spain, winners of the competition in 2000, have an awesome line-up on clay and they will start as overwhelming favourites to take the first-round tie against the Belgians.
Ferrero, Moya and Costa, the reigning French Open champion, are all ranked in the top 10, while Corretja is one of the wiliest clay-court campaigners around.
The three-man coaching team in charge of the Spanish set-up have dubbed 2003 the year of the “Reconquista” of the title won in such spectacular style with their final victory over Australian in Barcelona in 2000.
“Whoever we play on clay we believe we’re the favourites,” Jordi Arrese, one of the coaches, said in the build-up to the tie.
“We also believe we have a team capable of winning the Davis Cup but it’s important that we go step by step.”
Belgium are not so comfortable on the red dirt but they will come into the tie with their confidence high after making it through the Euro/African Zone Group 1 and World Group Play-offs last year to make it back into the elite. Malisse and Olivier Rochus led them to the all-important 4-1 victory away to Zimbabwe in Harare.
The winner of this tie will take on either Croatia or the United States in the next round.
That provides a major incentive for the Spanish, who have good and bad experiences of recent ties against the Americans.
In 2000, Spain handed a U.S. team, captained by John McEnroe, a 5-0 drubbing in Santander on their way to taking the title.
Last year it was the Americans who emerged triumphant, although Corretja did manage to beat Pete Sampras in his singles rubber in what was a huge upset on a Houston grasscourt.
This match provides the third meeting between the two nations and the first for almost half a century.
Spain took the spoils in the first clash in 1930 in Antwerp, with Belgium claiming victory in the second tie in Barcelona in 1956.