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Author`s name Michael Simpson

Russia Ready to Defend its Davis Cup Championship in Buenos Aires - 2 April, 2003

The new tie between Russia and Argentina is expected to be the outstanding series of the Davis Cup quarterfinals. World Champions will have to play at great level if want to revalidate the title obtained last year in Paris. The team captained by Shamil Tarpishev will face an Argentine team encouraged by its usually enthusiastic attendance.

On Monday Russia feared the worst when its star player, Marat Safin, had to leave the court presumably seriously injured on his right ankle. Fortunately for Captain Tarpishev, doctors said that the injury was not too serious and Safin could play on Friday. 

"I feel OK and expect to be ready for Friday's game", said Marat Safin, at a press conference on Tuesday, before training. "We will do our best to win the tie in two or three days", added Safin in perfect Spanish, as he lived in Seville for 6 years.

However, Captain Tarpishev did not confirm the players for weekend's rubbers, as he wants to see the evolution of Safin's condition. "All the team is well prepared; we will give the names before Thursday ruffle", said Shamil Tarpishev to the press.

When asked about Argentina, Yevgeni Kafelnikov said that the tie would be very difficult, but they were committed to win. "Argentina is a respected team and play at great level at home", said Kafelnikov. "They've born playing on clay and have developed their game on this surface. We also know about the enthusiasm of the crowd", stressed Kafelnikov and pledged hard work to pass to the semifinals.

Last week, Marat Safin had said to the Argentine press that Russia had no chances to defeat Argentina. Russian players were not at great level and Argentina played at excellent level at home, he said. However, this week he sounds more optimistic and even dared to forecast a two days victory.

After the press conference, Russian players trained at the main court of River Plate Club's facilities. PRAVDA.Ru could see Kafelnikov playing at a very good level against frustrated Mikhail Youzhny, who repeatedly smashed his racket into the floor after Kafelnikov's greatest shots.

The Argentine team, ranked fifth by the ATP, is also ready to face Russia and expects to win thanks to its excellent record playing at home. During the previous series, Argentina swept Germany 5-0 in Buenos Aires and for the first time in years has a top ten among the four appointed, David Nalbandian.

"We stand great chances to win this time", said Nalbandian to PRAVDA.Ru on Tuesday. However, he remarked the aptitude of the Russian team: "Russia has excellent players. Either Kafelnikov or Safin can win the tie".

In turn Gaston Gaudio, who never lost a Davis Cup game playing in Buenos Aires, said he was fully committed to win. "I do not care if I have to face Kafelnikov or Safin on Friday, I only think about the victory of my team", he said.

There is a great enthusiasm in Argentina about the tie against Russia. A 10.000 crowd is expected to support the Argentine team at each of the three days of game scheduled.

The tie is a rematch of last year's semifinal in Moscow, in which the Russians established a winning three rubbers to one lead before Argentina claimed the final dead rubber. The highlight of the tie, however, was the epic doubles rubber, won by the Argentine pair of Lucas Arnold and David Nalbandian 19-17 in the fifth set after six hours 20 minutes. It was the longest match in Davis Cup since the introduction of the tie break in 1989, yet Marat Safin and David Nalbandian returned to the court the next day to contest the fourth rubber, which Safin won to send Russia to the final.

That semifinal was played indoors on a medium-paced carpet, so Argentina will be hoping to exact revenge on its favored clay courts at home this time around. There may not be any rubbers as close as that doubles in Moscow, but the tie looks finely balanced and could turn out to be the clash of the quarterfinals.

Hernan Etchaleco
PRAVDA.Ru
Argentina

Photo: Marat Safin expects to celebrate a new Davis Cup victory against Argentina