The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Aussies, Spaniards gear up for a volatile decider
- Davis Cup final - Grasscourt may tilt the scales in hosts’ favour

Sydney: There will be no love lost when Australia host Spain in this weekend’s Davis Cup final, which is shaping up as one of the most volatile deciders in the history of the men’s team event.

Relations between the two teams have been frosty since they met in the 2000 final and it’s unlikely they will kiss and make up.

Australia’s former world number one Lleyton Hewitt added to the acrimony by accusing the Spanish of inciting the crowd into unruly behaviour in Barcelona three years ago.

Hewitt, whose world ranking has slipped to 16, also made it clear he was planning for revenge. The winner of two Grand Slam titles, he hasn’t played since the Davis Cup semi-final in September to save himself for the Spanish.

“I feel like I have the opportunity to crack the whole Davis Cup Final open on day one, and I feel like I’m good enough to do that,” Hewitt said.

The Spanish deny they misbehaved in Barcelona, with Alex Corretja saying Hewitt was just trying to turn the crowd against the visitors.

“I do have a lot of respect for Aussie people, I think they are pretty open guys,” Corretja said.

“They always treat me really well and I haven’t seen any reason why they are going to go against me or anything, and I believe it is just going to be a nice tie.”

Australia are favourites before Friday’s start even though Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis are both ranked below Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya.

The decisive factor is likely to be the grasscourt which is certain to favour the Australians. Hewitt won Wimbledon in 2002 and Philippoussis was runner-up this year.

However, Australia hosted France in the 2001 final on the same temporary surface at Melbourne Park and lost.

“You fight all year to put yourself in this position... but there are still no guarantees when you get here,” Australia’s non-playing captain John Fitzgerald said.

“The Spanish team is full of class and, as you would expect if you get to a Davis Cup final, there is no way you are ever going to play a team of bunnies.”

Australia have won the Davis Cup 27 times, second only to the United States, but have added just one title since 1986 and lost four finals during that period.

Their most recent title in 1999 came on clay when an inspired Philippoussis won both his singles.

“For me it was the last final I played in Davis Cup and I have always said that it was the best experience and best feeling I have ever had in tennis,” Philippoussis said. “I think if there is anything that could top a Davis Cup win away, it’s a Davis Cup win at home.”

The Spaniards, whose one title came in 2001, will also be hampered after a gruelling end-of-season campaign which included the Masters Cup. Spanish captain Jordi Arrese is trying to keep the Australians guessing by delaying his team announcement.

He has already confirmed that Corretja will play doubles with Feliciano Lopez against Todd Woodbridge and Wayne Arthurs, but is undecided about his two singles players.

Moya and French Open champion Ferrero are the obvious choices but Lopez’s superior form on grass has tempted Arrese to spring a surprise. “I already know who is going to play on Friday,” Arrese said. “But it’s a secret and you’ll have to wait until Thursday’s draw to find out.”

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