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No Nadal but Alcaraz set to shine in Spain’s Davis Cup defence

Nov 23 (Reuters) – Holders Spain lastly get the possibility to attempt to retain their Davis Cup crown when the competitors resumes in yet one more new format throughout three European cities this week with all eyes on teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the absence of Rafa Nadal.

Two years in the past in the inaugural version of the revamped crew occasion, a Nadal-inspired Spain claimed the title after an exhausting week in Madrid’s Caja Magica.

The pandemic scuppered final 12 months’s 18-nation Davis Cup Finals and since then the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and companions Kosmos Tennis have moved to make the occasion extra manageable, with Turin and Innsbruck added as co-hosts.

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Starting on Thursday, the 18 finalists will compete in six teams of three with eight qualifying for the knockout rounds and the ultimate happening in Madrid on Dec. 5.

The spectre of COVID-19 has returned, nevertheless, and the 2 teams being staged in Innsbruck can have no followers cheering them on after Austria’s reintroduction of a lockdown.

Impossibly late finishes to ties (comprising of two singles and a doubles) and smallish crowds for some matches tarnished what was an encouraging debut for the revamped Davis Cup Finals in Madrid in 2019, which is why it has been expanded to 10 days throughout three nations this time.

But Spain will really feel proper at residence with Group A, which additionally features a highly effective Russian crew and Ecuador, in Madrid.

They is not going to have talisman Nadal although as he continues his restoration from a foot damage. Instead, the main focus might be on Alcaraz, the 18-year-old being tipped because the participant probably to fill the void when 20-time Grand Slam champion Nadal retires.

Alcaraz might be making his debut in the competitors and might be joined by Roberto Bautista Agut, one of many heroes of 2019 when Spain beat Canada in the ultimate, in addition to Pablo Carreno Busta, Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers.

“It was a dream that I had since I was a child and being able to make my debut is super beautiful and super special,” Alcaraz, the world quantity 32, stated this week.

“It will be a difficult challenge because only one team definitely gets through in the group and Russia has a great team, but I trust a lot in the Spanish team.”

Spain start on Friday in opposition to Ecuador.

RUSSIA FAVOURITES

On paper Russia look favourites, with world quantity two Daniil Medvedev and world quantity 5 Andrey Rublev spearheading their problem, but Serbia can have world primary Novak Djokovic in their ranks in Group F in Innsbruck.

Serbia are up in opposition to Austria and a Germany facet lacking their prime participant Alexander Zverev.

“The (Olympiahalle) arena is great. It’s a pity that we can’t have an audience,” Austria’s Dennis Novak stated.

“We have been looking forward to this week for one and a half years — so now we’ll give our all.”

Britain, semi-finalists in 2019, are with out Andy Murray but with in-form Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans they are going to be assured of progressing from Group C which additionally consists of France and the Czech Republic.

The United States, Davis Cup champions a document 32 instances, are in Group E in Turin alongside Italy and Colombia.

Australia’s Group D may even be in Turin with the Davis Cup heavyweights up in opposition to Croatia and Hungary whereas Group B incorporates Canada, Sweden and Kazakhstan.

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Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris

Tennis - ATP 500 - Erste Bank Open - Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria - October 30, 2021  Spain's Carlos Alcaraz Garfia in action during his semi final match against Germany's Alexander Zverev REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

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