The Russian star player Marat Safin, ranked 8th at the ATP tour, will miss the first rubber at the opening of the Davis Cup's quarterfinals against Argentina on Friday. Nikolay Davydenko will replace him in the game against David Nalbandian, Argentine number one, in Buenos Aires.
The announcement has been made today at the ruffle ceremony in Buenos Aires. Journalists were taken by surprise as Safin himself had confirmed on Tuesday that he was ready to play on Friday. However, the best-ranked Russian player could not train for the last two days due to problems with his right ankle and will have to wait one more day to show his skills.
Safin has been appointed by Captain Shamil Tarpishev to play, together with Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the doubles on Saturday. However, it is possible that Safin would miss Saturday game too, as he may not recover from his injury by that time.
"If I am in good shape soon, I could play Sunday game", said Safin in a news conference after the ruffle. Then he tried to amend his declarations and added "either on Saturday on Sunday", but it is still in doubt his presence on the tie.
Also on Friday, Argentine number two, Gaston Gaudio will seek revenge against Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who defeated him in the last series in Moscow. For Sunday, two games are scheduled: Nalbandian vs. Kafelnikov and Gaudio against Davydenko.
Russian Captain Shamil Tarpishev believes Russian team still have chances even without Safin. "They said that we had no chances when we played against Check Republic, but we won. Will see in the court", said Tarpishev. Safin, in turn, backed his replacement: "Davydenko is playing very well and I will try to be ready for Saturday".
Argentina is also confident about winning the tie. The Argentine team is ranked fifth and two of its players are among the first twenty according to the ATP ranking. Besides, the South Americans are much more experienced than the Russians playing on clay surfaces are. It is also expected a 10.000 multitude to support them at each day of games.
"We do not care whether Safin plays or not. We have to win anyway", said a self-confident Gustavo Luza, Argentine captain. "It is not a matter of names; if we play badly tomorrow, we will be defeated", he added. On the contrary, David Nalbandian, believes he stands for the best chances to win. "Davydenko is not used to play in clay", said ATP's tenth to the press.
Argentina and Russia meet for the third time on Friday. The first David Cup's tie between both nations was 18 years ago, also in Buenos Aires. By that time, the Soviet Union, also captained by Shamil Tarpishev, won 3-2 and downed Argentina to second category.
In November 2002, Russians also defeated Argentina 3-2 after a remarkable series at Moscow. The highlight of the tie, 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. Both couples will meet again on Saturday.
Friday (16:30 MSK): David Nalbandian (Argentina, 10) - Nikolay Davydenko (Russia, 63). Then: Gaston Gaudio (Argentina, 20) - Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Russia, 28).
Saturday (17:00 MSK): Nalbandian-Lucas Arnold (Argentina) - Kafelnikov-Safin (Russia)
Saturday (16.30 MSK): David Nalbandian - Yevgeny Kafelnikov Then: Gaston Gaudio - Nikolay Davydenko.
Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina
Photo: Safin will miss the first rubber against Argentina. It is not clear whether he will take part of the rest of the games.