Repeat or Revenge?
This is the question that will be running in every Albiceleste supporter's mind when Argentina takes on Russia in the upcoming Davis Cup semi-final.
I'm sure many of us still remember that painful defeat from the 2006 final. David NALBANDIAN gave a heroic performance in Moscow against the likes of Marat SAFIN and Nikolay DAVYDENKO to force Russia until the final game.
Now fast forward to 2008, let's hope that this time, the table will turn in our favour.
For a start, this time we will have home court advantage, something which the Russian may not want to think about too much. The last time when both sides met in Buenos Aires was back in 2003, the Russian were hammered 5-0 in the World Group stage.
It is confirmed that ALL tickets has been sold out at the 14,000 plus Estadio Parque Roca, for almost like a month ago.
Team Captain Alberto MANCINI has selected a strong line-up which consists of David NALBANDIAN, Agustin CALLERI, Guillermo CANAS and teen sensation Juan Martin DEL POTRO.
As always, the focal point for this team has to be NALBANDIAN, being our top seed. However just like last year, 2008 has not been kind to him. His form has been poor and unpredictable but improves recently. So if there is a time for him to come out of his bad patch, that time is now (remember his back to back Master series triumph).
However unlike previous Davis Cup teams, the spotlight this time will also be on another player besides NALBANDIAN. The young DEL POTRO is already having a great summer and a splendid run in the recent US Open. His versatility to play on both clay and hard court has given MANCINI an extra edge to this team. He provides this team a second option and should ease the pressure on everyone else.
While the likes of CALLERI and CANAS are seasoned campaigners in the Davis Cup. Their experience will be crucial as ever.
Is This Our Year?
I have a strong feeling about this, but I will only choose to answer this question only after this tie has been completed. There has been a solid sentiment on this from many in the tennis circles including the great Guillermo VILAS.
At the moment, things are not looking good for the Russians. Their top players SAFIN and Mikhail YOUZNY are not in the team. The only problem that I foresee is that they too can be dangerous playing on clay.
MANCINI has confirmed that both NALBANDIAN and DEL POTRO will start as the singles players on Day 1. If both players can win their respective matches, than we are just one step away from the Final. After that, it will be carnival atmosphere at the Parque Roca.
The following are the fixtures that will take place for the next three days
Friday – 19/09/2008
David NALBANDIAN v Igor ANDREEV
Juan Martin DEL POTRO v Nikolay DAVYDENKO
Saturday – 20/09/2008
Agustin CALLERI/Guillermo CANAS v Igor KUNITSYN/Dmitry TURSUNOV
Sunday – 21/09/2008
David NALBANDIAN v Nikolay DAVYDENKO
Juan Martin DEL POTRO v Igor ANDREEV
Of course, our unofficial Chef De Mission for the 2008 Beijing Olympic contingent, Diego MARADONA is also expected to be there leading the partisan crowd.