TENNIS

“I’ll knock on locker room door,” says Spain’s first woman Davis Cup captain

Gala León responds to criticism from Nadal coach about her appointment in the role

Spain’s new Davis Cup captain, Gala León.
Spain’s new Davis Cup captain, Gala León.Laura León / EL PAÍS

Gala León had her answer ready for anyone who was thinking that her gender might create some awkward locker room moments in her new role as Spain’s first woman Davis Cup captain. “If the guys don’t have a lot of clothes on in the dressing room, then I’ll knock on the door first. I’ll probably have to control myself!” joked the former WTA world number 29 at a press conference in Seville. With that she swatted aside comments made earlier this week by Toni Nadal, uncle and coach of Spanish number one Rafa Nadal, regarding his doubts about hiring a woman to manage a group of men.

The federation has decided to appoint its sporting director in the role despite harsh criticism from a handful of Spanish players about her ability to captain the Davis Cup team. They’re the same players who couldn’t – or didn’t want to – defend Spain in its last tie against Brazil, which saw it relegated from the tournament’s World Group for the first time since 1995 and led to the resignation of captain Carlos Moyà. Nadal was injured, while David Ferrer, Feliciano López, Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco declined to play.

I respect all the opinions that have been expressed about me, but I do not share them” Gala León

“I respect all the opinions that have been expressed about me, but I do not share them,” said León. “I know the men’s circuit and the Spanish players. Now what I want is to talk to them, reach a consensus and create the best group possible to bring the title back to Spain. We have time for it.”

“Gala is the future of Spanish tennis and she is my captain,” added Spanish Tennis Federation President José Luis Escañuela, who explained that her appointment came as a natural development of her knowledge at the federation. “I always usually speak to the players about the captain and the same happened in this case. The players told me to try to convince Moyà [to stay] and that’s what I did. He told me no and the next natural step was for the sporting director of the federation to take on the role.”

León, who does not personally know 14-times Grand Slam winner Rafa Nadal, will take charge of her first match next July against the winner of the tie between Russia and Denmark. She will be the fifth woman captain in the history of Davis Cup tennis – after those of Moldova, San Marino, Syria and Panama.

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