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Argentina still smarting from Davis Cup woe


 

Originally published on: 26/02/10 15:34

What a difference three months makes. Back in November, the Davis Cup looked set to head to Argentina for the first time in the competition’s history as the hosts, undefeated at home, faced Spain in the final.

Politicians in Argentina climbed over one another to bring the tie to their region of the country, eventually settling on Mar del Plata. Tickets for the 12,000-seater stadium were golddust. Juan Martin del Potro and David Nalbandian came into the final in great form after late surges up the rankings boards.

And, ironically, news that world No.1 Rafael Nadal was to miss the tie through injury merely heightened the excitement in South America. The cup, it seemed, was there for Argentina’s taking.

Tickets for the final were golddust – now, the Parque Roca is full of yawning gaps…

Then, after Nalbandian got the hosts off to a fine start with victory over David Ferrer, it all went wrong. Del Potro’s lengthy season caught up with him at just the wrong time as he crumbled against Feliciano Lopez and retired injured for the rest of the tie, and cracks began appearing in the Argentina camp.

Rumours abound of rifts between Nalbandian and Calleri after doubles defeat put Spain in the driving seat, and Fernando Verdasco finished the job against a spirited Jose Acasuso. Spain had ripped up the script, and Argentina was left stunned.

Fast forward to March 2009, and as Argentina hosts the Netherlands in the first round, the nation’s approach to the Cup is in stark contrast to last season. Team captain Alberto Mancini is gone, claiming that “everything became political” during that fated final, surprisingly replaced by Modesto Vasquez.

Even more radical is the new-look team. No del Potro – he declined his invitation to play. No Nalbandian – who pulled out this week with a virus. Acasuso and Calleri are also missing.

And they’re not the only ones: that 12,000-strong crowds of November have dwindled to just over 1,000, leaving yawning gaps in the huge Parque Roca arena as world No.159 Juan Ignacio Chela struggled past Jesse Huta Galung before Juan Monaco eased Argentina to a 2-0 tie lead.

Despite the comfortable position in which they now find themselves, the team could not ignore the sense of anti-climax around the tie – but that’s not how Vasquez sees it. instead, the captain was keen to view the squad – featuring Martin Vassallo Arguello and Lucas Arnold alongside Chela and Monaco – as a new start for Argentina.

“It’s a chance to experiment, we still have enough to win,” he said, undeniably feeling under fire. “I’m tired of hearing about Del Potro, Nalbandian, a crisis, backing.”

Argentina should still beat the weaker Netherlands in the world-group tie, leaving Vazquez with another dilemma. Do the players who turned him down get the call next time, or does he stick to his guns and give his fledgling squad a chance?

Time will tell. But for now, Vasquez and his squad must reach the next round, as Argentina continues to lick some still raw wounds.

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