Spain is set to begin its defense of the Davis Cup final without Rafael Nadal, and all eyes will be on the teenager who is touted as his heir.
18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz will get the spotlight when Spain kicks off the match against Ecuador on Friday. Spain hopes to win again two years after winning the first Renewed Nations competition. In 2020, the tournament was not held due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Winning the title in the next generation ATP final, Alcaraz will play for the first time in the Davis Cup with Pablo Carreno Busta and Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who are more than 10 years his senior. Alcaraz was not even born when another member of the Spanish team, 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez, began touring.
“It’s a dream come true for me to be here,” said 32nd Alcaraz on Wednesday.
“I have watched this tournament since childhood and I have always wanted to be here to represent my country, so I am very happy to be with the team.”
Left foot injury
Nadal did not lose in singles and doubles when Spain won the title in 2019, but the 20-time Grand Slam champion is not playing this year due to a left leg injury that ended early.
“It’s true that we had a big lead. If you have Nadal on your team, you will immediately become the favorite, because he is the best player in Davis Cup history, ”said Spain captain Sergi Brugera.
Alcaraz concludes an impressive season that included reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open and beating top 10 players Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini.
Brugera said that with his great personality, Alcaraz helped breathe new life into the team.
“Carlos is an incredibly nice guy, he is very humble,” said Brugera.
“And he adjusts very well. He is happy. The veterans are already very good friends, and Carlos is like fresh air in the team. Cute.”
However, the Spanish national team is faced with the difficult task of retaining the title, as the other team in Group A is the Russian team, which includes two players from the top ten at number 2 Daniil Medvedev and number 5 Andrei Rublev. Also on the team are Olympic silver medalist Karen Khachanov and Australian Open 2021 semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev.
During the event, Russia will be referred to as the Russian Tennis Federation (FTF) due to the ongoing ban on doping in international sports.
“This is the strongest team,” said Brugera. “This is the most complete team, and Medvedev is probably the most in shape right now, so this will be our toughest opponent.”
Spain took a hit when 19th Roberto Bautista Agut was replaced by 45th Ramos-Vinolas at the last minute with an abdominal injury.