The first edition of the Davis Cup Finals will take place in Madrid between November 18-24, with 18 teams fighting for the title in Caja Magica. The two-time champions Russia will seek the first title in 13 years, led by two top-10 stars Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov who will have to play on a high level right from the start, facing Spain and Croatia in Group B.
The legendary captain Shamil Tarpischev will be there to guide his young squad, 45 years after making a debut as the Davis Cup captain for his country, ready to fight for the title but knowing how tough that road will be.
Shamil spoke about his everlasting Davis Cup experience and some significant moments of the Russian team that he witnessed from the bench, fully aware of what the title would mean for the youngsters in Russia. Despite having two top-10 players and currently the best competitor in the world, Tarpischev will take one step at the time, facing the host nation Spain and the defending champions Croatia in Group B.
Russia has not reached the semi-final at the Davis Cup since 2008, hoping for a great run in Madrid if their leading players compete at their best. "I took the helm as captain 45 years ago, in July 1974, making it the world record run, taking part in 92 ties and claimed 59 of them.
I can draw a psychological portrait of any player and the Russian men's national team that I led had pulled off more than 20 ties which seemed desperate and almost lost, with all of those ties being very dramatic. I would say the most memorable one was that 2002 final in Paris.
After splitting the first four rubbers, I decided against nominating Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who not only was the leader of the Russian team but also of the whole world of tennis – and opting for Mikhail Youzhny, a much lesser-known top-100 player.
Back then, none of the coaches from our national team headquarter supported that decision but I had an inner confidence that it was the right decision. Youzhny, who lost the first two sets, managed to claim the victory in what was a phenomenal rubber!
Good knowledge of psychology – this is what makes a good captain in the first place. When I am sitting next to a player, I try to be short-spoken and concise, you should say something or make a comment only when the tennis player hears you.
One should bear in mind that the player is capable of really grasping the meaning of your words towards the end of the changeover – and even that is not always the case. You give him the wrong advice once, then twice – and the player stops listening to you.
If the Russian Tennis Federation had as much money as, let's say, its US counterpart, we would have scored many more wins on the international stage. For sure, such events as the Davis Cup do contribute to the development of tennis in our country.
We see an obvious synergy here – if our team achieves success in Davis Cup, thousands of Russian kids will take up tennis. Our group in Madrid is very tough; you can call it the "group of death" as it is arguably the strongest group at the first stage of the Davis Cup Finals.
Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov are ranked in the top-10 but nobody knows in what shape they will be by November. Besides, we have been traditionally struggling with putting together the right doubles combination."