Rafael Nadal returns for Davis Cup

MIAMI, Fla. – Great news for tennis – and Spanish tennis – as Rafael Nadal will be back in action in 10 days.

Nadal, who will become the No. 1-ranked player in the world again on Monday after Roger Federer’s early exit in Miami, has been named to the Spanish Davis Cup squad that will face Germany April 6-8.

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The tie will be held on clay, in Valencia.

Captain Sergi Bruguera will call upon Nadal,  Pablo Carreño Busta, Roberto Bautista Agut, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez in the five-man format now in vogue.

Despite the expansion of the roster, none are considered doubles specialists although Lopez and, to a certain extent, Carreño Busta, have had success.

Given the best-of-five format, it’s entirely possible that Nadal may only play doubles. He hasn’t played since retiring at the Australian Open in the fifth set of his quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

So, it will have been nearly three months since he has played a match.

Powerhouse Spanish Davis Cup squad

Nadal hasn’t competed in Davis Cup since a playoff tie against India in Sept. 2016.

In that tie, he played only doubles, teaming up with his lifelong friend Marc Lopez. But of course, they didn’t really need him. Bruguera did not name Lopez to the squad this time.

All five Spanish players nominated are currently ranked in the top 35 in singles. Notably, the average age is 32 years three months. Ferrer turns 36 on Monday and Bautista Agut turns 30 in two weeks.

At 26, Carreño Busta brings that average down big-time.

Germany will bring Alexander Zverev (but not his brother Mischa), Philipp Kohlschreiber, Jan-Lennard Struff, Maximilian Marterer and Tim (Golden Set) Puetz.

Other nominations

In another quarterfinal (the winner will play the winner of Spain vs. Germany), France will travel to Genoa to meet the Italians.

Notably, not a single member of the new “Quatre Mousquetaires” generation – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon – is on the squad. And still, you give them a very good chance to win.

France: Lucas Pouille, Adrian Mannarino, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Jérémy Chardy, Nicolas Mahut

Italy: Fabio Fognini, Paolo Lorenzi, Andreas Seppi, Matteo Berrettini, Simone Bolelli

The other half of the World Group draw has Croatia vs. Kazakhstan. And that one looks like a bit of a mismatch unless one of the top two Croatians begs off after Miami.

Croatia, with home court, will bring Marin Cilic and Borna Coric. Coric is still alive at the Miami Open. But John Isner eliminated Cilic in the fourth round by John Isner Tuesday. Joining them are Ivan Dodig, Viktor Galovic and Nikola Mektic.

Kazakhstan will have Mikhail Kukushkin, Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Dmitry Popko, Denis Yevtseyev and Timur Khabibulin.

Americans heavy favorites

The final quarterfinal has the US hosting Belgium in Nashville.

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Without David Goffin, the 2017 Davis Cup finalists will be up against it.

And without top-10 player David Goffin, who begged off early after the freak incident in which he was hit in the eye by a tennis ball in the Rotterdam semifinals, the Belgians (former finalists) will have a tough time.

They’ll be led by veteran lefty Ruben Bemelmans. Joris de Loore, Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille (who just qualified at a Challenger in Guadeloupe) will join him. The Belgians don’t even have a fifth player.

The US team will have Jack Sock, John Isner, Sam Querrey, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson. All are ranked in the top 55. Jared Donaldson is actually higher-ranked than Harrison or Johnson. But those two have had much more success in doubles.

The players starting to think about ensuring their eligibility for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. So we might well start seeing the big guns show up to represent their country.

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