Corretja's new-look Spain open title defence

Alex Corretja's new-look Spain open their Davis Cup title defence against minnows Kazakhstan in Oviedo starting on Friday.

Updated: February 09, 2012 20:53 IST
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Paris: Alex Corretja's new-look Spain open their Davis Cup title defence against minnows Kazakhstan in Oviedo starting on Friday.

Just two months after lifting the trophy for the fifth time against Argentina in Seville, Corretja takes over from Albert Costa as the hosts bid to defend their interests without world number two Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez.

The Spaniards are however overwhelming favourites in their first meeting with Kazakhstan, a team made up of Russian-born players which made its debut in the World Group last year.

Former French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero returns for Spain after a two-year absence from the men's team tournament, and he will be joined by Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.

Ferrero, ranked 48, has a 17-7 Davis Cup record and last played in 2009.

The 32-year-old 2003 Roland Garros champion opens against 61st-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin on Friday with world number 11 Almagro, who has a 3-2 record, then taking on 132nd-ranked Andrey Golubev.

On Saturday Granollers teams up with Davis Cup debutant Lopez in the doubles against Yuriy Schukin and Evgeny Korolev, with the reverse singles on Sunday deciding who will advance to meet either Russia or Austria who play at Wiener Neustadt.

Last year Russia failed to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2004 and 79th-ranked Igor Kunitzyn opens their campaign against Austrian number one Jurgen Melzer, ranked 40.

In the second rubber, Alex Bogomolov Jr., playing for Russia for the first time in Davis Cup, will meet Andreas Haider-Maurer.

Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev has saved his most experienced Davis Cup players, Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny, for Saturday's doubles rubber, against Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya.

In other ties, Canada face a tough task despite hosting France in Vancouver.

Guy Forget's France are favourites despite doubts over the fitness of Gael Monfils who has a knee injury. The French line-up also includes Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.

World number three Roger Federer and Stanislaw Wawrinka, ranked 28, will lead Switzerland against record 13-time winners the United States on clay at Fribourg.

The United States have not won since 2007 and have a good chance of progressing with a team that includes eighth-ranked Mardy Fish and John Isner, ranked 17, with Ryan Harrison and Mike Bryan on doubles duty.

The Czech Republic can count on heavyweights Tomas Berdych, ranked seventh, and Radek Stepanek, 30th, for their home tie against Italy at Ostrava.

Serbia, the 2010 champions, are favourites even though they will without world number one Novak Djokovic against Sweden.

Djokovic will skip the first round to be played in southern Serbian town Nis on February 10-12 in order to get some rest from the busy season.

Germany host last year's runners-up Argentina in Bamberg as Asian hopefuls Japan, back in the World Group after 26 years, will be counting on in-form Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda as they host Croatia near Kobe.

World Group 1st rd ties

Spain v Kazakhstan

Austria v Russia

Canada v France

Switzerland v USA

Czech Republic v Italy

Serbia v Sweden

Japan v Croatia

Germany v Argentina

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