Davydenko left out of Davis Cup final

Russia pulled a surprise at Thursday's draw for the Davis Cup final, leaving fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko out of the singles matches.

updated: December 01, 2007 10:40 IST
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Portland, Oregon:

Russia pulled a surprise at Thursday's draw for the Davis Cup final, leaving fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko out of the singles matches.

Davydenko - at the center of a gambling investigation - was relegated to playing doubles with Igor Andreev, and captain Shamil Tarpischev picked Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny for singles.

Many expected Davydenko, as the highest-ranked player on the Russian team, to play singles in the competition, which runs Friday through Sunday at Portland's Memorial Coliseum.

Instead, Tursunov will face sixth-ranked Andy Roddick in the opening match Friday, followed by 13th-ranked James Blake against Youzhny.

Davydenko and Andreev are slated to play the top-ranked duo of Bob and Mike Bryan on Saturday. The singles' opponents are reversed on Sunday.

"We have four strong players, be it for singles or doubles, so the choice was made for tactical reasons," said Tarpischev, who is known for his craftiness.

Even his players were taken aback.

"I learned only a couple of minutes ago at the draw ceremony," Tursunov said. "It was our captain's Christmas gift to me."

Davydenko accepted his role. "Well, it was our captain's decision that the strongest are at this point Tursunov and Youzhny," he said.

At Number 34, Tursunov is only the fourth-highest Russian in the singles rankings, following Davydenko, Number 19 Youzhny and Number 33 Andreev.

US team captain Patrick McEnroe said he wasn't surprised about the twist, but he didn't expect the Bryans to face the Russian duo put forward Thursday.

He predicted last-minute maneuvering on the part of the Russians, perhaps even for the reverse singles on Sunday.

"I don't think they probably even know who their doubles team will be. That will probably depend somewhat on what happens on Friday," he said.

The once-dominant United States has 31 Davis Cup titles but none in 12 years, the longest span without an American victory. Pete Sampras last led the team to victory over Russia on clay in Moscow in 1995.

Russia is the defending champion, having defeated Argentina last year in Moscow.

Last year Tursunov held on in Moscow to beat Roddick 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 17-15 on Sunday and give Russia a spot in the final with a 3-2 win over the United States.

Asked if the marathon match was added motivation, Roddick said the bigger picture was his team's victory in the Davis Cup.

"I don't need any added hunger," he said, "no question of that."

As for the us-against-them flavor to the competition, most of the players can't recall much about the Cold War.

"The only bad Russian I remember growing up was Drago in Rocky," Roddick said.

McEnroe was more serious in his response.

"This match is bigger than the U.S. against Russia," he said. "It's about a quest this team has been on for a while."

Davydenko is under investigation after authorities noticed unusual betting patterns during his loss to Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina 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 in Poland, even after he lost the first set 6-1. Davydenko retired with an injury in the third set.

Davydenko denies the allegations.

For the draw, the teams stood on the stage at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, on each side of the massive Davis Cup trophy.

USTA Chairman of the Board and President Jane Brown Grimes introduced the US team with the words: "At home, at last, in a final."

Both Davis Cup teams include the same players from the semifinals, when the United States beat Sweden 4-1 and Russia defeated Germany 3-2.

The United States last hosted the Davis Cup final in 1992, in Fort Worth, Texas. Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and John McEnroe defeated Switzerland.

Memorial Coliseum, which seats about 12,800, has hosted two previous Davis Cup events, in 1981 and 1984, both US semifinal victories over Australia.