09/11/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/11/2019 07:59
As the glitz and glamour of the inaugural Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals draws ever nearer, Portugal's Joao Sousa is one tournament veteran who is rueing his nation being on the sidelines for the prestige event.
Portugal suffered a 3-1 defeat to Kazakhstan in Astana during February's Qualifiers and now face a Group I showdown against Belarus in Minsk's Olympic Tennis Centre this week.
The winners will guarantee themselves a place in the 2020 Davis Cup by Rakuten Qualifiers and earn a shot at emulating the 18 nations which will vie to be crowned 2019 Davis Cup champions at La Caja Magica in Madrid between 18-24 November.
Sousa, who won Portugal's sole point against Kazakhstan while teaming up with Gastao Elias in the doubles, is determined for his nation to seize their chance and secure a place among the tournament elite this time next year.
'Unfortunately, we didn't make our goal to get to the Finals, so now we are playing to reach the 2020 Qualifiers,' Sousa told daviscup.com. 'That's the focus - to get back there, and maybe next year be in the Finals.
'It's a tough tie as always - playing away from home is always tougher than playing on home soil. It's going to be a tough one for us. We're going to win - that's the main goal for us, to stay in the Qualifiers.
'We're expecting a good fight from them, but hopefully we can play some good tennis and come through.'
Sousa has been a mainstay of Davis Cup since making his debut in a Group II clash against Cyprus in 2008, chalking up 26 ties since and returning a 32-23 win-loss record across singles and doubles.
The 30-year-old's immediate focus may be firmly fixed on Portugal's latest hurdle in Minsk, although that has not prevented his gaze drifting to next month's Finals in the Spanish capital.
His eyes, along with those of many others, will be transfixed on the new-look conclusion to the competition, and Sousa is certainly not overly wary of the unknown.
'The Finals format is a good idea,' said Sousa. 'We'll see what happens - this is the first time they're doing it.
'I think the nations with the best-ranked players have a better chance in Madrid. If you're a nation without a top-ranked player it's going to be tough, because they have to win two matches each day.
'The guys with a solid team of players for both singles and doubles have the best chance to win. For now, I'm trying to help my country to get there, so our goal is different.
'Playing Davis Cup is an honour for me, to represent my country. I've played for the last 10 years and only missed one tie when I was injured. If possible, I will always be available to try and help them.'