If there were any doubt over Spain’s new-look Davis Cup team failing to live up to the giddy heights achieved under former captain Albert Costa, they were dispelled, in part, by a 5-0 whitewash of Kazakhstan in Oviedo at the weekend.
Àlex Corretja, who has stepped in to lead the side, did not call on either Rafa Nadal, who has decided not to play this year; David Ferrer, who has left his participation open on a tie-by-tie basis; or doubles pair Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano López, who have not committed themselves either way, but were nevertheless omitted.
Instead, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Nicolás Almagro, Marcel Granollers and Marc López duly reported for the first tie of the year and completed a rout of the visitor, playing in the World Group for the second time. Corretja reserved special praise for doubles duo Granollers and López, who clinched the vital third point on Saturday: “Granollers is a cat at the net, a very skillful player. He can play on any surface. He is a safety net, useful for everything. Marc is also very adept. He has great movement and gives us stability from the baseline. He doesn’t have the serving power of Feliciano or Verdasco but he’s clever and reads the game well.”
López, a specialist, and Granollers, a singles player whose highest doubles ranking was five, have played together regularly since 2010 and López has the experience of partnering Nadal to the Indian Wells title in 2010 and the Doha championship twice.
Whether Corretja will retain the same team for the tie against Austria in April is unclear — legend has it that Granollers and López regularly beat Verdasco and Feliciano López in training games ahead of the 2011 Davis Cup win in Seville. Austria, which has just one top-100 player in Jürgen Melzer, pulled off a shock win over Russia, which has four, to set up a clash with Spain.
“If they play singles with players like Almagro and Ferrero, they’re in my range, I can beat both of them, and we have a strong doubles team and even Andreas [Haider-Maurer, world 127, who beat world 37 Igor Kunitsyn],” Melzer told the Davis Cup website. “We’re not going there for holidays, we’re going there to compete and to win.”