Portland (USA):Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev was emphatic. Marat Safin was not going to suddenly appear for the Davis Cup final this week.
There were questions whether Tarpischev, known for his craftiness, might bring in Safin at the last minute.
Safin is 29-18 in the Davis Cup, and he won the decisive point in Russia's 3-2 win over Argentina in the final in Moscow last year.
For now, the Russian team includes Nikolay Davydenko, ranked No 4 in the world, as well as Igor Andreev, Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny.
"This is our strongest team," Tarpischev said through an interpreter. "I think these guys play better than Marat, and he is not going to be here."
The captain was cagey about who would play in the singles matches on Friday. The draw will be held tomorrow, and matches run through the weekend on the hardcourt at Portland's Memorial Coliseum.
"I'm asking the same question myself," he said. "It's too early."
Bob Bryan, a member of the US team and half of the top-ranked doubles duo with brother Mike, was not so sure about Safin.
"It might be some trick they have up their sleeve. Who knows?" he joked.
In all seriousness, however, Bryan expects to face Tursunov and Youzhny in doubles.
The Bryans are joined on the US team by sixth-ranked Andy Roddick and 13th-ranked James Blake.
This year's Davis Cup is clouded by growing allegations of match-fixing and gambling in professional tennis.
Davydenko is at the centre of an investigation into unusual betting patterns during a loss to Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina at a match in Poland in August.
Betfair, an online gambling company, voided all bets on the match after unusually large amounts were wagered on the lowly ranked Argentine throughout the contest, even after he lost the first set 6-1. Davydenko retired with an injury in the third.
Davydenko denies wrongdoing and was tightlipped about the issue on Tuesday.
"I've been getting this question for the last three months," he said through an interpreter. "Of course, what I try to do, I try to focus on playing and I try to do my best each time."
Earlier this month, Italian player Alessio Di Mauro was handed a nine-month suspension and fined USD 60,000 for online betting on matches.
Di Mauro has said he will appeal, calling the punishment too severe because he did not attempt to affect any results and did not wager on his own matches.
Additionally, a new ATP rule requires players notify officials within 48 hours if they hear any information about gambling or match-fixing. The measure was approved during a three-day ATP board meeting at the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai.
US captain Patrick McEnroe said he never heard of match-fixing when he was playing, but said it is important that the sport tackle the issue.
"I think at this point it's more of a threat than an actual problem. Whatever has happened, I'm sure that we'll move forward in a positive direction. So I don't think it's casting a pall, to be honest," he said. "It's kind of sad in the world we live in that tennis gets more attention because of this. It's on the front page of 'The New York Times', etcetera. But, you know, that's the reality."
The once-dominant United States has 31 Davis Cup titles but none in 12 years, the longest span without an American victory.