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PHOTOS/VIDEO: The Draw Ceremony of Davis Cup quarterfinal between Spain and Germany Teams in Valencia.
On Monday, Rafael Nadal reclaimed the world No. 1 ranking. On Friday, he will make his return to tennis, having not played competitively since he was forced to retire in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January.
In a moment of symmetry, his return also comes in a quarterfinal, as part of the Spanish team looking to book a spot in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals for the first time since 2012.
Nadal’s return will see him face off with German No. 2 Philipp Kohlschreiber in Friday's second match. In fifteen meetings, the German has only prevailed once, at Halle in 2012, and in five previous clay court encounters, Nadal is yet to drop a set.
When asked how close to 100% he was, the world No. 1 answered with a grin. “I was not very good in mathematics at school,” he recalled. “So I don’t know about percentages, but I am here to play, and to play as well as possible.”
“From the beginning, my idea was to be here, but we have to be respectful with the injury. He [Spanish captain Sergi Bruguera] believes I am ready, and I believe too.”
Nadal, however, is not the only player the Valencian public will be looking forward to seeing.
In the streets of Valencia, David Ferrer can make a claim very few others can anywhere in the world – he is just as popular as Nadal.
In the picturesque town hall on Thursday, just before the players entered a main room decked out with marble and crystal, the players were taken out onto a balcony where fans below clamouring to see not just the world No. 1, but also their local hero.
Ferrer has a daunting task ahead of him. On Friday morning, he will face world No. 4 Alexander Zverev who, fresh from a run to the final in Miami, leads the German team.
Zverev’s Davis Cup form is inconsistent. He has three wins and as many defeats from his six matches, and faces a vastly more experienced opponent in Ferrer, whose record in the competition stands at a daunting 27-4.
A left hand injury has forced Spanish No. 2 Pablo Carreno Busta out of the tie but such is the depth of Spanish tennis that Marc Lopez, a former doubles world No. 3, can be called upon to come in and play on Saturday alongside Feliciano Lopez.
They will have a battle on their hands against the German duo of Tim Puetz and Jan-Lennard Struff who are unbeaten in the competition.
Germany leads the head-to-head record between the two sides 10-6, but Spain have won three of the last four meetings, and each of the last three at home.
Source: Davis Cup
Photos: Copa Davis; Joan Ribó; Clinica del Tenis; EPA; Dolores Jimenez Diaz; Cs Valencia; Ajuntament València; Generalitat; Tenis España; NurPhoto: Action Press