Nadal lifted by golden memories of Seville

The 2004 Davis Cup win that first hinted at his potential has revived tired world No 2 for this year's final

Seville

Ask a typical Sevillano, even one who loves sport, about his city's Olympic Stadium and he may not respond with much enthusiasm. Built to stage the 1999 world athletics championships and as a focal point for Seville's highly ambitious bids to stage the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, the stadium looks like a factory from the outside and little more than an identikit arena inside. The running track on which Michael Johnson memorably broke the world 400m record only 12 years ago is now in such a bad state of repair that you would imagine that bulls rather than world-class athletes had been running on it.

You get a different response, nevertheless, if you ask Rafael Nadal about the 57,000-capacity stadium, which hosts this weekend's Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina. It was on exactly this stage, seven years ago, that the then 18-year-old Majorcan announced his arrival as a sporting phenomenon.

Controversially selected ahead of the established Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo as Spain's second singles player for the 2004 Davis Cup final against the United States, Nadal thrilled the Seville public with his four-set victory over Andy Roddick, which helped his country win the competition for only the second time. At that stage Nadal had won just one minor title and had taken only nine games when crushed by Roddick at the US Open less than three months earlier.

"The 2004 final was one of the victories that I will always remember in my life," Nadal said here at yesterday's draw. "It was then in Seville when people began to get to know me a bit more. It was an important victory for me. It was the most important victory of my career up until then, and the atmosphere that we went through – it was our second Davis Cup for Spain – was very special. I have very nice memories. Luckily I'm here seven years later, I'm still on the circuit, and with good results. Then I wouldn't have even dreamed of this life I have now."

To Nadal's evident delight, the tennis arena which has been constructed inside the Olympic Stadium looks much as it did seven years ago, which was the only other occasion when it has been used for a Davis Cup tie. Once again a clay court has been built at one end beneath a huge temporary cover, which is open to the elements on three sides. The roof has been covered with insulation material to muffle the noise from any rain, though the forecast is for bright sunshine.

While Spain are the clear favourites, Argentina should not be written off as they attempt to win the historic team trophy for the first time, having lost on all three of their previous appearances in the final. In Juan Martin del Potro they have a recent US Open champion, while the captain, Tito Vazquez, has such faith in the recent form of Juan Monaco that he has preferred the world No 26 to the highly experienced David Nalbandian in the second singles slot. Nalbandian has been named to play doubles alongside the specialist Eduardo Schwank.

Spain's current 20-tie unbeaten run at home is the longest in Davis Cup history. They also have the tie's two highest ranked singles players in Nadal (world No 2) and David Ferrer (world No 5) – who have never lost a Davis Cup singles rubber on clay – but both men have had gruelling seasons.

While the Argentines have focused on their preparations for this tie, Spain's top two men were competing on an indoor hard court last week at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Nadal said in London that he had played with "a little bit less passion for the game" in recent months because of tiredness, while Ferrer admitted: "I'm very tired. I want to stop, but I can't because I have the Davis Cup."

Such comments about the demands of the season have helped to leave the Davis Cup fighting for its future in the eyes of some. Many of the leading players have missed ties, though all still insist they love the 111-year-old event, which bills itself as the world's largest annual international team competition in sport, 130 countries having entered this year.

There has been talk of staging the competition every other season, of not holding it in Olympic years, and of putting the whole contest on over a fixed period at one venue. Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the International Tennis Federation, said he was open to new ideas within the competition's existing framework but insisted that it was "very, very bad to change something that is so successful".

The Davis Cup is an invaluable source of funding for many national federations, while the public's enthusiasm for it around the world is undimmed. The 22,000 tickets available for each day here sold out so quickly that another 6,000 with restricted views have been made available. If Nadal leads Spain to their fifth victory since the turn of the century the competition will be more popular than ever in his homeland.

Davis Cup Final draw

Today (1pm)

R Nadal (Sp) v J Monaco (Arg)

D Ferrer (Sp) v J del Potro (Arg)

Tomorrow (3pm)

F Lopez/F Verdasco (Sp) v D Nalbandian/E Schwank (Arg)

Sunday (12pm)

R Nadal (Sp) v J del Potro (Arg)

D Ferrer (Sp) v J Monaco (Arg)

Matches played at the Olympic Stadium, Seville

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
film
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried