ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Leaving behind two injury-hit years, Juan Martin del Potro is looking to cap his successful comeback by leading Argentina to its first Davis Cup title.
The 2009 U.S. Open champion said host Croatia is the favorite in the best-of-five series, but believes Argentina is in a strong position after losing in four Davis Cup finals since 1981.
"Croatia has a very strong team, but we are looking forward to a very good weekend," Del Potro said. "They are playing at home on a favorite (fast indoor) surface. But, I also like fast surfaces."
Federico Delbonis will start Argentina's quest for the title by playing Friday's opening singles match against Marin Cilic. Thursday's draw also pits del Potro against big-serving Ivo Karlovic, who returned to Croatia's team after a four-year absence.
In the doubles, the Croatian pair of Ivan Dodig and Franko Skugor will face Leonardo Mayer and Gaudio Pella. Reverse singles are scheduled for Sunday.
"If I win, it will be a bit less pressure on Ivo and a bit more pressure on Delpo," Cilic said. "I'm feeling quite positive."
Argentina is the only nation in the Davis Cup's 116-year history which has reached four finals without winning the title. Croatia, targeting its second Davis Cup title after beating Slovakia in the final in 2005, will be led by an in-form Cilic, who has reached a career-best year-end ranking of No. 6.
"We are hoping that this long quest for the cup title will come to an end," del Potro said. "This is a very different team we have since the last finals, new players, new team captain (Daniel Orsanic). Hopefully, a different result as well."
The 37-year-old Karlovic will be the oldest player in the Davis Cup final in nearly a century. The towering Croat said he hopes to have short points and many aces in the match against del Potro.
"I will try to evade long exchanges, he is better in long points," Karlovic said. "More aces I serve, less able Delpo will be able to win."
Croatia team captain Zeljko Krajan had to make a last minute change to his roster, leaving youngster Borna Coric out because of his recent knee surgery. Coric was replaced by doubles specialist Skugor.
"It was a very tough decision," Krajan said. "Unfortunately, he is not fully fit to play long matches."