Rafael Nadal ready to lead Spain at new-look Davis Cup

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MADRID — Top-ranked Rafael Nadal has arrived in Madrid to lead Spain in the new-look Davis Cup Finals.

“It’s a new competition and we must be focused,” Nadal said Sunday. “The first thing is to get familiar with it and to know that each match is vital.”

Spain opens against Russia on Tuesday before facing defending champion Croatia on Wednesday in the men’s international team tournament.

The matches will be played on hard courts – not Nadal’s preferred clay – at the “Caja Magica” (Magic Box) tennis complex.

“We have been put in a tough group and the surface is obviously not our favorite, but I believe that we are all motivated to be as well prepared as possible,” Nadal said.

“Today was my first day of training and I have been told that the team has been training well, so we hope that we are all in good shape and we can compete well.”

Nadal was eliminated in the group stage of the ATP Finals on Friday in London.

The 19-time Grand Slam winner will be joined by Feliciano Lopez, Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Marcel Granollers.

Spain has won the Davis Cup five times, but its last title came in 2011.

The Davis Cup has completely overhauled its format this year, concentrating all its matches in a World Cup-style format played over one week at one site.

The 18 teams will play in six groups of three, with the group winners advancing to the knockout stage along with the two best second-place teams.

In past years, the competition featured head-to-head matchups played at varied sites over four weekends throughout the year.