Davis Cup - Nadal gets Monaco in final opener
Rafa Nadal will play Argentina's Juan Monaco in the opening singles rubber of the Davis Cup final on Friday as the world number two returns to the scene of his first great triumph to begin Spain's bid for a third title in four years.
Nadal was an inexperienced 18-year-old yet to win any of his 10 grand slam titles when he defeated American number one Andy Roddick on an indoor clay court at Seville's Olympic Stadium to help the Spanish claim the Cup in 2004.
Thursday's draw for the final of the 99th edition of the competition, being held at the same arena in the Andalusian capital, pitted Nadal, now 25, against world number 26 Monaco.
Spanish number two David Ferrer will take on 11th-ranked Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, in Friday's second singles in the best-of-five tie.
"I have some very good memories of the 2004 final," Nadal told a news conference at Seville's Lope de Vega theatre.
"It was my first great triumph and it's really nice to be back here seven years on," the Mallorcan added.
Argentina, who lost at home to Spain in the 2008 final when their bid for a first title was wrecked by infighting, face a stiff task to upset the favourites, who are playing at home and on their best surface.
Neither Nadal or Ferrer have lost a Davis Cup singles rubber on clay, Nadal boasting a 14-0 record on the red dust and 18-1 overall, while Ferrer, the world number five, is 11-0 on clay and 16-4 on all surfaces.
Six-times French Open champion Nadal has only ever lost one best-of-five sets match on clay, against Robin Soderling at Roland Garros in 2009, and Spain have won their last 20 home Davis Cup ties and last 22 on clay.
The Argentine players have said the friction within the team is in the past and they are fully focused on securing the Cup on their fourth appearance in the final.
"This final will be very different to 2008," Del Potro, who reportedly clashed with team mate David Nalbandian over the venue for the final three years ago, told a news conference.
"We are going to give our all to win our first salad bowl," added the 23-year-old, a reference to the Spanish nickname for the huge Davis Cup trophy.