Davis Cup finals spots at stake despite virus pressure
Paris: Twelve countries will this weekend eye the finals of the Davis Cup, the venerable 120-year-old team competition suddenly confronted with the global spread of a very modern deadly virus.
Defending champions Spain, 2019 runners-up Canada, semi-finalists Great Britain and Russia, as well as wild cards France and Serbia, are already assured of their spots in the Madrid finals in November.
However, the anticipation over the 12 qualifying ties on Friday and Saturday has been replaced by deepening concern over the coronavirus which has killed over 3,000 people in more than 60 countries.
As a result, the tie between Japan and Ecuador in Miki will be played behind closed doors. Italy's clash at home to South Korea in Cagliari will also be off-limits to spectators.
One tie has already fallen victim with China forfeiting their World Group play-off in Romania.
Injury-hit Japan number one Kei Nishikori said Thursday he had failed to recover from an elbow injury and will sit out his country's tie.
A depleted Japan will also be without world number 48 Yoshihito Nishioka.
Nishioka has opted to return to the United States as a precaution against being quarantined because of the coronavirus outbreak ahead of next week's ATP Tour Masters event in Indian Wells.
India travel to 2005 and 2018 champions Croatia with 46-year-old doubles stalwart Leander Paes in the line-up as his final season as a pro winds down.
Paes made his Davis Cup debut 30 years ago and boasts a career competition record of 92 wins and 35 losses.
He holds the overall Davis Cup record for most doubles match-wins, recording his 44th victory during the zonal victory against Pakistan last year.
"There are still so many things to win," said Paes ahead of the trip to Zagreb.
The United States, champions on a record 32 times, are also set for an emotional two days in Honolulu against Uzbekistan. - AFP