Spain hold edge over Czechs

Defending champs relish prospect of playing on clay court at home


Spain go into this weekend's final as defending champions and with every reason to relish the prospect of a return to Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi, the indoor arena that played host to their first Davis Cup final win in 2000.

Nadal has been struggling of late, failing to win so much as a set in the ATP finals last week, but he and the rest of the Spanish team are such consummate performers on clay that to underestimate them would be unwise to say the least.

"We are outsiders in Barcelona," Czech number one Radek Stepanek told newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes.

"To take into consideration Nadal's failure in London? That doesn't work. The moment he steps on to the Barcelona clay, he will be a totally different player." Nadal, four times French Open champion, heads a formidable line-up that also includes world number nine Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer (ranked 18th) and Feliciano Lopez (47). Captain Albert Costa was part of the team that overcame Australia in a memorable tussle at the Palau in 2000, when huge crowds screamed themselves hoarse in support of their team. Along with Stepanek, the world number 12, the Czechs will pin their hopes on 20th-ranked Tomas Berdych, with Jan Hajek and Lukas Dlouhy also in the squad but unlikely to get on court.

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