Davis Cup CAN vs. SPA – Meet the (New) Spanish Armada
January 28, 2013 · Print This Article
Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez are all seasoned Davis Cup competitors for the number-one ranked nation in the ITF standings. As it so happens, none of these five players will be making the trip to Vancouver.
What we are left with, as it turns out, is Spain’s leading doubles team of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez (who won the Year-End Championships in London in 2012) and their singles “C” team composed of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Albert Ramos, two player who have exactly zero Davis Cup experience between them. The Spaniards will certainly be in danger of losing the tie, contested in Vancouver, BC on a lightning fast indoor hard court favored by the local team. Let’s take a look at Spain’s team roster:
Singles ranking: 32
Doubles ranking: 10
For the first time in his career, Granollers will be the go-to guy for the Spanish team. Not only is he the highest-ranked singles player at Captain Alex Corretja’s disposal this week, but he is also the taller half of one of the best doubles teams on the planet. Even though Granollers plays best on slow red clay, he has shown an ability to compete on faster surfaces, as evidenced by his title win in London last fall. Granollers has compact swings off both sides and takes the ball well off the rise, contrary to his teammates.
If Corretja does in fact pencil in Granollers in one of the singles spots as well, it may prove to be a wise move. While Granollers may be in tough against Milos Raonic, he does hold a 6-4 career hard court record in best-of-five set matches against lower-ranked players. Whoever Martin Laurendeau decides to nominate as his second singles player (Frank Dancevic or Vasek Pospisil) will be in trouble against Granollers.
Another thing worth mentioning about Granollers is the psychological aspect he brings to the game. Granollers loves playing in front of a hostile crowd, as evidenced by his 6-1 final set win against Paul-Henri Mathieu at Roland Garros this past year. Not only can he get into his opponents’ heads by returning a lot of balls and by pulling the trigger on occasion from way out in the tramlines, but his loud grunting can be a major source of disruption. Expect Granollers to be a pillar of strength for the Spanish team, as well as perhaps a source of controversy, during the tie.
1-0 in Doubles
1-1 in Singles
Singles ranking: unranked
Doubles ranking: 6
Lopez is strictly a doubles specialist and is highly unlikely to take to the court in singles this week. Despite putting up good results in the 2013 Australian Open with partner Granollers, the team has also not won a single match in Davis Cup in 2012 since an opening-round win against Kazakhstan. They lost in 4 sets against the Bryan brothers on clay in the World Group semifinals, and then dropped another 4 set match against a hastily assembled team of Stepanek-Berdych in the final round.
Lopez plays the ad court and does like to run around his backhand to spank the forehand inside-out. However, he will likely not have time to make it a worthwhile play in Vancouver. The faster surface may help him hold serve somewhat more often, but the Spaniard’s delivery is unlikely to be a major factor in the match. Still, because of his history of fruitful collaboration with Granollers on the doubles court, Team Spain is favored to take the pivotal third match of the tie.
1-0 in Doubles
Singles ranking: 51
Doubles ranking: 351
Ramos is more of typical Spanish clay court expert, going 18-13 on the slow stuff in the past 12 months while only 8-15 on hard court during the same span. He is left-handed but only uses the hook serve out wide in the ad court to start the point, rather than end it outright. In addition, he has a fairly long windup on the forehand which can be exploited on a fast indoor court.
Ramos was able to extend Marcos Baghdatis to five sets in the first round of the Australian Open this year, but the Cypriot also did not help his own cause by making 80 unforced errors before wrapping the match up 6-3 in the fifth. In that match, Ramos hit more double-faults than aces (5 vs. 9) and averaged a fairly anemic 168km/h on his first serve (compared to 184km/h for Baghdatis).
Singles ranking: 82
Doubles ranking: 291
Despite Garcia-Lopez’s relatively modest singles ranking, he is a solid player who can make some waves, having reached #23 in the world back in 2011. In addition, he undoubtedly has the best game to succeed in the prevailing conditions in Vancouver, as he hits fairly flat and can step up and put the ball away when the opportunity presents itself.
Garcia-Lopez, who at a ripe 29 years of age has never represented Spain in Davis Cup, will be a bit of a wildcard. On the one hand, he lost to Ranjeev Ram, who has a serve-and-volley game reminiscent of Frank Dancevic’s, in four sets at the Australian Open a couple of weeks ago. On the other hand, Garcia-Lopez is a bit of a giant-killer, having beat Nadal and Murray in the past two years. Captain Corretja is short on serious options at #2 singles and I expect him to roll the dice on Garcia-Lopez. He will definitely be a heavy underdog against Raonic, and a coin-flip against Frank Dancevic (despite being ranked around 80 spots higher, he’s 0-2 against the Canadian). Still, Garcia-Lopez may very well be able to play lights-out tennis from the baseline and put a serious scare into the Canadian contingent.
0-2 in singles
Jack will be flying to Vancouver to cover the tie live for Tennis Connected. Follow him on Twitter at @KSplayersClub and on Instagram at @Soireeculturelle