Rafael Nadal (left) and Juan Martin del Potro have never met in Davis Cup play, but are set to play Sunday. (Miguel Angel Morenatti/AP)
The draw for the Davis Cup final took place in Seville, Spain, on Thursday, and as expected, Argentina will sit David Nalbandian on the first day and put its hopes squarely on the shoulders of Juan Martin del Potro.
By sitting Nalbandian, Argentine captain Tito Vasquez is banking on his men to win tie Nos. 2, 3 and 5 to pull off the upset. Concede to the King of Clay, Vasquez seems to be saying. Take your shot against the others.
Here's how the matches stack up:
Friday, Dec. 2
TV Coverage: Tennis Channel, Live, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. ET
Match 1: Rafael Nadal vs. Juan Monaco: There's no other way to say it: Monaco is being thrown to the wolves here, sacrificed for the good of the team. Monaco has lost both matches the two have played on clay, winning no more than four games in either match. Of course, the two haven't met since 2007, when Nadal retired in Cincinnati.
Unfortunately, the best Monaco can hope to do here is keep Nadal on the court as long as possible. Everyone knows the world No. 2 is tired, struggling with a few nicks here and there, and if Monaco can make Nadal work hard for the victory, he will have done his job, possibly softening him up for Sunday's clash against Del Potro.
My Pick: Nadal def. Monaco, 3 sets to love
Match 2: David Ferrer vs. Juan Martin del Potro: This is where the Argentine hope lies on Day 1: Can Del Potro secure a point here? He certainly has the ability, having won their last two encounters on hardcourts. But the big man is a mystery these days. Which Del-Po will show up? And will he have answers for a relatively in-form Ferrer on slow Spanish clay? I'm going to go out on a limb and say yes.
My Pick: Del Potro def. Ferrer, 3 sets to 1
Saturday, Dec. 3
TV Coverage: Tennis Channel, Live, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET
Match 3: Fernando Verdasco/Feliciano Lopez vs. David Nalbandian/Eduardo Schwank: Verdasco and Lopez are Spain's go-to doubles team, but the two have been on a horrible run. They've lost 10 of their last 11 matches together on Tour and in Davis Cup, including a shellacking at the hands of France in September.
That said, the last time these two countries met, at the 2008 final, Verdasco and Lopez scored a thrilling 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 win over Nalbandian and Augustin Calleri to take a 2-1 lead into the final day. Argentina absolutely has to win this rubber to have a chance. Look for King David to step up and keep Argentina in the hunt.
My Pick: Nalbandian/Schwank def. Verdasco/Lopez, 3 sets to 1
Sunday, Dec. 4
TV Coverage: Tennis Channel, Live, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. ET
Match 4: Rafael Nadal vs. Juan Martin del Potro: Nadal holds a 6-3 record over Del Potro, and, unsurprisingly, all three of the Argentine's wins have been on hardcourts. Del Potro will always have a shot given his massive power and ability to hit through the court, but, assuming his health holds up, Rafa should roll here. He's just that good.
My Pick: Nadal def. Del Potro, 3 sets to love
Match 5: David Ferrer vs. Juan Monaco/David Nalbandian: If this is a live rubber, there's no way Nalbandian isn't on the court. The entire population of Argentina wouldn't be able to keep him off the court if the tie truly does come down to this battle. You get the sense that Nalbandian's entire career, all the ups and downs, has been leading him here. Olympic Stadium, in Spain, with his country's first Davis Cup title to be decided by no one but him? You could not write the script any better.
If the tie doesn't get to this match, then Spain will have rolled, as expected, capturing its third title in four years and extending its home unbeaten streak to 21. But if it does come down to Nalbandian and Ferrer, a lot of history could be made, altered, written and rewritten. My hands are sweating just thinking about it.
My Pick: Nalbandian def. Ferrer, 3 sets to love
And the winner is...