Quarterfinal action is set to begin Friday at the Davis Cup tennis tournament, the world's premiere men's team event. France will host the two-time defending champions Spain.
With Spain's national football team playing in its first ever World Cup final Sunday against the Netherlands in Johannesburg, it may be difficult for the country to focus on anything else. But on Friday, its men's tennis team begins a best-of-five match quarterfinal series with France at the Davis Cup tournament.
France will host the defending champs in the central city of Clermont-Ferrand. The draw will mark the seventh time these nations have met, with the Spanish holding a commanding 5-1 advantage. The last time the French defeated their European rivals was in 1923.
This time France will have to do it without its best player, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, who is out with a knee injury. But captain Guy Forget is hoping that home-court advantage will help his team snap its losing streak.
"We have nothing to lose," said Guy Forget. "We have great potential with four players that are playing well. We have a lot of depth in French tennis and hopefully that will be enough. I know it's going to be a very hard and tough match for Spain hopefully, and with the help of the crowd from Clermont-Ferrand, we can create a big upset here."
Spain, the winner of the last two Davis Cups, is led by 2002 French Open champion Albert Costa. But Spain does not have the world number-one Rafael Nadal, who is undergoing treatment on his right knee following his victory at Wimbledon this past Sunday. Instead, the Spanish side will have Fernando Verdasco play both singles and doubles.
In Friday's singles action, Verdasco will play France's Michael Llodra.
"I know it is going to be a very tough match and very difficult," said Fernando Verdasco. "But, you know, I hope to play my best tennis tomorrow and I hope, you know, that if I play my best, I will have chances to win."
The other opening singles match Friday features Spaniard David Ferrer against Gael Monfils.
Meanwhile, the three other quarterfinal matches are all being contested beginning Friday. In Moscow, Russia faces Argentina. Chile will host the Czech Republic, but Czech star Tomas Berdych, the Wimbledon finalist currently ranked eighth in the world, will not be participating in the tournament.
Finally, Croatia hosts Serbia with world number-two Novak Djokovic leading the way.
"So far this has been the best achievement and success that we had as a team, as a nation in this sport," said Novak Djokovic. "So anything we do in this tie, or eventually this year - if we win this tie, will be even a greater success. We do have responsibility of carrying the hopes of the nation."
The 2010 Davis Cup semifinals are scheduled for September 17-19 and the finals will be held December 3-5.