09/14/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/14/2017 03:16
Guido Pella and Diego Schwartzman will carry the hopes of Argentinian tennis fans on Friday when they open the 2016 champions' bid to remain in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group.
Pella takes on Kazakh No. 1 Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening rubber, while Schwartzman - just over a week after his first Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance at the US Open in New York - will play Dmitry Popko in the second rubber.
In Saturday's doubles, Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni could make their Davis Cup debuts, while Kukushkin will play alongside Aleksandr Nedovyesov for the hosts.
After the glorious scenes of last November in Zagreb, the Argentinian team will be desperate to avoid a sour ending to their fairytale - relegation would see them become just the third team (and the first since Sweden in 1999) to drop out of the World Group the year after winning the title.
If rankings are anything to go by, the first rubber should be a close one, with Pella ranked just five places above Kukushkin. But, as Argentinian fans will know well, rankings can count for little in this competition and the unique atmosphere of a Davis Cup tie can produce the unexpected results.
So while Schwartzman, who is very much the form player coming into this tie, should defeat the 196th-ranked Popko, upsets can never be ruled out. Popko will aim to continue his perfect start to his Davis Cup career, having won both of his rubbers in Kazakhstan's victory over China, P.R. on his debut earlier in the year.
Nervous Kazakh and Argentinian fans may be inclined to disagree, but for the neutral that's the beauty of Davis Cup - anything could happen.
More to follow...