Del Potro leads Argentina's chase of 1st Davis Cup title
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 23, 2016 09:31 AM
FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2016, file photo, Juan Martin del Potro, of Argentina, readies to hit a forehand return during his match against Stan Wawrinka, of Switzerland, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, in New York. Led by Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina is bidding to end its long pursuit of the Davis Cup title when it faces Croatia in the final this weekend. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Led by Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina is bidding to end its long pursuit of the Davis Cup title when it faces Croatia in the final this weekend.
Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion who returned to the tour successfully after two injury-hit years, believes Argentina is in a strong position after losing in four Davis Cup finals since 1981.
"I've had a great year," Del Potro, who won the silver medal in singles at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, said Tuesday. "I have everything to do a good weekend. We are confident. It's a very special moment for us and we are very, very positive."
Argentina is the only nation in the Davis Cup's 116-year history which has reached four finals without winning the title. The latest challenge comes in the best-of-five series starting Friday on an indoor hard court at the sold-out Arena Zagreb.
Croatia, targeting its second Davis Cup title after beating Slovakia in the final in 1995, will be led by Marin Cilic, who has reached a career-best year-end ranking of No. 6.
"Motivation is great playing in front of the home crowd. Small details will decide the winner," Cilic said, referring to how fast the court will play for big servers like himself, Croatian No. 2 Ivo Karlovic and Del Potro.
"It is slower than expected, but I think it will pick up speed as indoor temperatures rise in the Arena," Cilic said. "It will be good for everyone."
Karlovic, 37, is returning for the final four years after he announced he would no longer participate in Davis Cup. He is a likely choice for team captain Zeljko Krajan because Borna Coric is still not fully recovered from knee surgery.
Karlovic, a serve-and-volley specialist, would become the oldest man to play singles in a Davis Cup final in nearly a century. He said he feels "great for such an important match."
Argentine captain Daniel Orsanic is likely to choose Guido Pella, a stalwart of the semifinal victory over last year's winner, Britain, as his second singles player.
Del Potro said he is looking forward to facing Cilic on Sunday in what could be the decisive match.
"He's a very good friend of mine," Del Potro said. "He's a great player and he has a chance to win this trophy this weekend, but we will try and win as well."