Wednesday, November 26, 2008

MANCINI Steps Down As Argentina's Captain

Alberto MANCINI has stood down as captain of the Argentina Davis Cup team following defeat in the final against Spain at the weekend.

The Spaniards overcame the loss of world number one Rafael NADAL to a knee injury to prevail 3-1 in Mar del Plata and secure a third Davis Cup title and a first on foreign soil. Argentina's loss was made all the more painful as it was their first on home soil since 1998, and MANCINI, who took over as coach in 2005, has decided now is the right time to go.

He told Argentinian news station Todo Noticias: "This is a decision I made before the final match this weekend, no matter the result. Unfortunately, we failed to win the title."

He added: "Anyway, I think we've had four wonderful years. There were very good victories and some other bad moments. Four years are enough. We've lived a number of situations together and it's time to step aside."

MANCINI guided Argentina to the Davis Cup final in 2006 and the semi-finals 12 months earlier but failed to deliver the biggest prize during his tenure.

"This is a passion for me, but I know this is the right time to step aside. I want to," he continued. I am quite sad. Everybody is sad because we wanted to win the final. Losing the final at home is even more painful. However, sport makes you live difficult moments sometimes. You have to face it and lose with dignity."

MANCINI also said the Argentines should keep their heads up despite the disappointing home loss.

"You would have to be foolish to talk about failure," he said after Spain clinched the title 3-1 with Fernando VERDASCO's five-set win over Jose ACASUSO in the reverse singles.

"After reaching the final, I don't understand how that can go through someone's mind. It shows a lack of respect not only to me, but to the players too."

MANCINI said that one of the main reasons Argentina came up short in its bid to win its first Davis Cup title.

"There are several reasons why we couldn't win it, and Spain certainly was a factor. Without a doubt it was a tough opponent."

He also said the pressure of playing at home may have played a role.

"It's not easy to play like this, with all these expectations," he said. "But still, we were close, ACASUSO left everything he had on the court and had chances to win."

Nearly 10,000 fans packed the Islas Malvinas Stadium each day for the matches in the coastal city of Mar del Plata.

MANCINI praised the 48th-ranked ACASUSO for his efforts, but said that the injury to Juan Martin DEL POTRO that forced his withdrawal from the reverse singles was also key.

DEL POTRO had to be replaced by ACASUSO in Sunday's reverse singles after injuring his right thigh in a four-set loss to Feliciano LOPEZ on Friday.

"When you lose such an important player like Juan Martin, it opens a big hole in the team," MANCINI said. "After that, things got complicated for us."

The loss gave Argentina its third runner-up finish in as many Davis Cup finals. It had lost to the United States in 1981 and to Russia in 2006, both times away. It became only the third nation, along with Romania and India, to fail to win a title in its first three final appearances.

"We still have a lot to learn in order to win one of these finals," MANCINI said.

The loss to Spain snapped Argentina's 10-year unbeaten streak at home. It last lost in front of its fans in 1998 to Slovakia.

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