Nadal a surprise pick

Updated: December 2, 2004, 1:21 PM ET
Associated Press

SEVILLE, Spain -- American Mardy Fish will play Spain's Carlos Moya on Friday in the opening singles match of the Davis Cup final.

America's top player, Andy Roddick, will face Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal in the second match of the best-of-five final on clay at Seville's Olympic Stadium.

"He has a lot of game," Roddick said. "He hits the ball a ton and he's very competitive and in an atmosphere like this, he's going to get the crowd going."

Nadal, 18, was a late replacement for Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former No. 1 who has been struggling with illness and injuries this season.

"Personally I was expecting them to play Ferrero," Roddick said. "But they have four very capable singles players and that's one of their strengths."

Spanish captain Jordi Arrese said Nadal was picked for "tactical and technical reasons."

"Juan Carlos Ferrero isn't in perfect form and Rafa has been great and he's left-handed which gives the Americans something different to deal with," he said.

Fish, ranked No. 37, has a 2-1 record against No. 5 Moya, but none of his wins were on clay. Roddick, the world's No. 2-ranked player, beat Nadal in straight sets at this year's U.S. Open.

"Certainly he's favored," Nadal said of Roddick. "He's No. 2 in the world and that's on any surface."

Saturday's doubles will pit American twins Bob and Mike Bryan against Nadal and Tommy Robredo.

In Sunday's reverse singles, Roddick will face Moya and Fish will play Nadal.

The team captains can change the lineup an hour before the match.

The surprise of Thursday's draw was the selection of Nadal, Spain's lowest-ranked player at No. 51. However, the hard-hitting left-hander has been clutch in the Davis Cup.

Nadal, the youngest Davis Cup player in Spanish history, won the deciding fifth match against the Czech Republic in February. As a late replacement for Moya, he won the clinching match in the semifinals against France.

Spain is considered the favorite, playing on a slow, red clay surface before an anticipated record crowd of 26,600. Spain is appearing in its third final in five seasons. It won its first Davis Cup title in 2000, defeating Australia in Barcelona.

The United States is trying to win its first title since 1995. The Americans have won the Davis Cup a record 31 times, but this is their first appearance in the final since 1997.

Spain has spent about $1 million to build a covered clay court inside its 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium. Despite the roof, the sides of the venue will be open giving it an outdoor feel.

Organizers expect the largest crowd ever to attend a "sanctioned" tennis event. The existing mark was set in 1954 in Sydney, Australia, when 25,578 watched the United States defeat Australia in the Davis Cup final.

Several exhibition tennis matches have drawn bigger crowds. The 1973 match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the Houston Astrodome drew 30,472.

Roddick has a 14-3 singles record in Davis Cup play since joining the team in 2001 and has not lost a set in six Davis Cup singles matches this year.

Fish won the silver medal at the Athens Olympics. He has been a Davis Cup player since 2002, holding a 4-4 record.

The Bryan brothers have yet to lose a set in Davis Cup play.

Heavy rain fell on Wednesday and Thursday in usually sunny Seville. There is a 40-percent chance of light showers on Friday, while sunny skies are expected over the weekend.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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