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Nadal leads Spain in Davis Cup against Czechs

RAFAEL Nadal will lead defending champion Spain in next month's Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic.

The second-ranked Spaniard returns to the team for the first time since winning both singles matches against Serbia in the first round in March. Nadal missed last year's final victory over Argentina due to a knee injury.

Nadal will be joined by likely singles partner David Ferrer, while Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez are set to remain partners in the doubles for the squad announced yesterday by captain Albert Costa.

Ferrer, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, hasn't played since last month's Valencia Open, so Verdasco could also play in the singles as he did in last year's final at Mar del Plata.

Costa cautiously evaluated the best-of-five series to be played on indoor clay at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, from Dec. 4-6.

"This series is by no means already won," Costa said. "We'll need to fight and we'll need the help of the fans. It's going to be a difficult tie."

Nadal earned a valuable point with his win over Andy Roddick in the 2004 final when Spain won the second of its three titles since 2000. The Australian Open champion has been battling injuries since last November, with tendinitis in both knees denying him a chance at defending his Wimbledon title, while an abdominal injury has also been a bother.

The 23-year-old Nadal has won all 12 singles matches he's played since losing in his debut against the Czechs five years ago.

Spain leads the head-to-head series between the two countries with a 3-2 record.


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