Argentina has a chance to finally grab tennis' most prestigious team trophy this weekend when they face Spain in the Davis Cup final. The championship is being played indoors and not on the dusty clay courts upon which Argentine players have always excelled. Argentine officials decided to host the final in an indoor stadium in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, 250 miles south of Buenos Aires, because they feared facing the world's #1 player, Rafael Nadal, on clay, the surface on which he is most dominating.
They may now be regretting the move.
Nadal withdrew from the competition because of injury, but Argentina still needs to face the formidable Spanish squad on the fast indoor hardcourt.
I'm confident they can pull it off.
A Davis Cup victory would cap a unprecedented run of success for Argentine tennis over the past decade, which saw a French Open title (Gaston Gaudio, 2004), a French Open finalist (Mariano Puerta, 2005), a Wimbledon finalist (David Nalbandian, 2002), a Masters Cup champion (Nalbandian, 2005) and an array of other titles from players like Guillermo Coria, Guillermo Canas, Juan Ignacio Chela, and the emerging 20-year-old superstar Juan Martin del Potro, who just finished an incredible year ranked #9.
Argentina has a long and storied tennis history, whose players have done extraordinarily well despite their limited funds and the long distances and inflated costs they have to endure to compete in the world's top tournaments. It's a topic that I examined in a story I filed for National Public Radio (NPR) in 2004. This week, tennis writer Christopher Clarey also touched upon some of these same topics in the pages of the IHT and NYT.
Photo courtesy AFP.