Federer, Nalbandian missing as Davis Cup starts new season

March 5th, 2009 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Roger FedererBirmingham (Alabama), March 5 (DPA) Switzerland tackle the 32-time champion US with Roger Federer thousands of kilometres away healing a back problem in Dubai as the Davis Cup season starts Friday.

Venues spread from Buenos Aires to Benidorm will host World Group matches which will yield eight quarter-finalists by Sunday night.

Switzerland will have to rely on No.16 Stan Wawrinka, backed up by teammates Marco Chiudinelli, 143rd-ranked Stephane Bohli and Yves Allegro.

The US is going with strength as captain Patrick McEnroe chooses the usual suspects in Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers. The US and the Swiss have split ties one apiece, with the Americans winning the 1992 final over the Europeans in Texas.

Federer’s pending presence had sold out the weekend in the tennis backwater of the Deep South in around an hour, with the American federation suddenly finding more seats to sweeten their box office deal.

But without Federer, the advantage shifts heavily to the hosts, who won the 2007 crown over Russia at a home venue.

“The goal is to try to get back into the later rounds and win the Cup again,” said McEnroe. “That’s the bigger-term goal. We certainly like the fact that we feel we’ve got a better chance to advance.”

Roddick said that some of the lustre is gone with the absence of the world No.2 Federer. “It took a little bit out of the match, but this increases our chances of winning.”

Joining Federer out the sidelines is Argentine David Nalbandian, who has come down with a virus which will prevent him playing in Buenos Aires against The Netherlands.

National number 1 Juan Del Potro is also off the squad, but by his own choice. Officials tried to get the world’s seventh-ranked player to change his mind but to no avail.

Reports indicate a recent personality clash between the top Argentine pair kept Del Potro away.

In a European zonal tie, world number 4 Andy Murray is also down with a virus he may have carried since the Australian Open, leaving Britain all but powerless against the equally modest Ukraine.

There is good news on the injury front for 2008 winner Spain, which will have Rafael Nadal back in action after the No.1 bypassed the Dubai ATP event last week to rest his right knee.

The tie with Serbia and Novak Djokovic promises the most fireworks of the weekend in the Mediterranean high-rise holiday resort of Benidorm, known for decades as a haunt for British holidaymakers.

Serbia’s world no.3 Djokovic took his 12th career trophy last weekend in Dubai, beating David Ferrer. “I had a great week. This win will help my confidence,” said the Serb.

“Now I want to focus on the Davis Cup,” said the Spaniard. “We will play at home in clay court, my surface favourite, and we will see then.”

In Malmo, Sweden, the tie will be played behind closed doors due to security concerns for the visitors in the wake of Israel’s January bombing of Gaza.

Feeling is running high in this port city, home to thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers from the Middle East, with police on full alert to prevent trouble in the streets.

In other ties, Germany face neighbour Austria in the alpine resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, while the Czech Republic play France in Ostrava. Croatia host Chile and Russia travel to Romania.

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