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The Davis Cup, the competition that gives and takes, the one that rises to the skies and sinks in equal parts, the one that puts an entire country behind a player, opens tomorrow Thursday simultaneously in Madrid (Canada-Sweden), Innsbruck (France-Czech Republic) and Turin (Croatia-Australia). Three locations to converge on the Madrid Arena on December 5 and crown a new champion … Or so that Spain raise a seventh Salad Bowl in the second edition of the ‘Era Piqué’, the one that changed the face of a legendary competition and that in 2020 could not be held due to the pandemic.

Spain will debut on Friday against Ecuador (16:00, Let’s go) in a group that completes Russia and will do so diminished with respect to the champion team in 2019. To the usual Rafa Nadal’s loss was joined on Tuesday by Roberto Bautista (19th), destined to be number one in Spain. “A hard blow”, in the words of the captain, Sergi Bruguera. Albert Ramos (45th) was called urgently to relieve him, but his role will be testimonial. Run the ladder. Carreño (20th) becomes number one (“I’m ready”, he says), the phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz (32nd) is placed in the front line in case there was any doubt and he will have to debut against Ecuador and Marcel Granollers and Feliciano López will be the wild cards for a doubles that accounts for 33% of each tie.

“In 2019 Bautista’s father died and Carreño was injured. With Sergi Bruguera we have had casualties in almost all the qualifying rounds and we have competed. This team has a competitive soul and we are prepared. We can play from you to you to anyone “, warns Feliciano, with 40 years. The toledano He made his debut with the team in 2003, 18 years ago, which Alcaraz has. He has played a total of 39 battles and all the captains have trusted him.

“I don’t have to give him advice,” says Feliciano with the recent NextGen teacher by his side. “He’s one of those tennis players you want to see play. It is unusual to see an 18-year-old player handling himself like this and he is prepared for this challenge, “warns Feliciano as the smile creeps onto the Murcian’s face.

Alcaraz, who this year has released his track record and reached the quarterfinals at the US Open, is expected at the Madrid Arena (which takes over from the Caja Mágica) as water for the field. All eyes are on him. “I am gaining respect on the track, I am making myself known on the circuit and outside. And in the end you get used to people knowing you. Everything has gone very quickly, but it does not take away the illusion of continuing to improve and grow as a player and as a person. I am very clear about the path I have to follow to achieve my dream, “Alcaraz quickly recites, who on Friday will fulfill his debut with Spain.

A dream that he fueled in 2018 in the Valencia Bullring when he saw David Ferrer win a five-set match against the German Kohlschreiber that put Spain in the semifinals. In the stands, unknown to all, steeped in the Davis’ epic. “It was exciting. I thought I would like to be in his place sometime,” he recalls. He has little left.