Croatia will host Spain in Osijek for the first round of the Davis Cup from February 3-5.
After yesterday’s news that Rafael Nadal would not participate in the 1st round duel of the World Group Davis Cup in Osijek this weekend, Croatian coach Žejko Krajan said that the Spaniards would be 20-30% weaker, but still far stronger than the Croatian composition and are favorites to qualify for the quarter-finals, reports Index.hr on January 30, 2017.
“We all know who Rafael Nadal is, and that there would probably be no doubt that he would win the two points for Spain in his individual matches. But Spain is still very strong, and still is a very big favorite and far, far stronger than us,” said Croatian coach Željko Krajan.
Instead of Nadal, Conchita Martinez has called on the experienced 35-year-old left-handed Feliciano Lopez who will join the namesake Marc Lopez in pairs, and may be an option for individual matches where Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Buste will compete.
Spain will face a Croatian team made up of Franko Škugor, Ante Pavić, Nikola Mektić, and Marin Draganja. Škugor is 223 on the individual ATP ranking which is the best ranked Croatian player in this duel, from which the winning team will advance to a place in the quarter-finals.
Depsite missing Čilić, Karlović, and Ćorić, the coach has confirmed a positive atmosphere within the Croatian team.
“The atmosphere in the team has always been good and it will be no matter who responded. Surely this is a huge difference in quality compared to last year when we all got together, so therefore different goals and objectives must be set. Last year, we set a goal to reach the end and we arrived very close. This year, with the opponent as Spain, it is not easy. We knew that it would be difficult already after the lottery, but now it will be even more difficult because we have not responded with our best players. We must believe that a miracle will happen to win,” said Krajan after the first training in Osijek at Gradski vrt Hall, while expressing hope that the fans will come to support Croatia.
“I think the attitude of fans towards the team should not be changed. They should support the players, and understand that this is the best that we have available. The fans are disappointed that we do not have the team that was expected, but this should not be charged at the players who are here. We should cheer as much as possible like we would cheer for Marin Čilić and Borna Ćorić. This situation it is already difficult, and without support it will be even more difficult,” concluded Krajan.
The draw will be held on Thursday at noon at the Croatian National Theatre in Osijek, and the first singles match is scheduled for Friday at 15:00.