OSIJEK, January 26, 2017
Spain is going to be at almost full strength for the World Group Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie in Croatia, held at the Sportska Dvorana Gradski vrt in Osijek from 3 to 5 February. 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will join Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno-Busta and Marc López in an excellent Spanish line-up, chosen by captain Conchita Martinez.
The home team, however, has to compete without their best ranked players. Franco Skugor, Nikola Mektic, Ante Pavic and Marin Draganja have been picked by captain Željko Krajan. None of the players who contested live rubbers in the 2016 Final will play the opening stage of this year’s team competition.
World No. 7 Marin Cilic, who fell in the second round of the Australian Open to Daniel Evans, is still tired from his strong finish last year, in which Croatia made it to the final of the Davis Cup, and needs some rest. Young gun Borna Coric is struggling with a knee injury and big-serving Ivo Karlovic is also missing.
Consequently, a depleted Croatia will be led by Franco Skugor, the current World No. 221. The Sibenik native captured two career titles on the ATP Challenger Tour as well as five on the ITF Future Circuit.
Krajan counts on the strong support of the fans in a packed arena, which might give the underdogs a small chance to make the impossible possible.
The only previous meeting between the two nations – a World Group quarterfinal in April 2003 – ended in an emphatic win for Spain, as the team, spearheaded by Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya, romped to a 5-0 victory on the clay courts of the Valencia Tennis Club.