SPORT

Croatia keeps Ivanisevic on the sidelines

BRATISLAVA: Croatian sensation Goran Ivanisevic is primed for action at the weekend's Davis Cup final if he gets an emergency call to court as his nation and Slovakia battle for the trophy starting Friday.

Wily Croatian-born coach Niki Pilic — who took Germany to top honours in 1988, 1989 and 1993 — stuck with his younger form players Ivan Ljubicic, who will play Karol Beck in the first singles match, and Mario Ancic, who will play the second singles match against Slovak number one Dominik Hrbaty.

Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic will play Karol Beck and Michael Mertinak in the doubles rubber.

"The tennis I'm playing now is good enough, and we came here to win," said Ivanisevic.

World number 57 Beck had to quit injured with a knee problem in his last two ATP matches of 2005, retiring in Madrid and St Petersburg. In addition, the 23-year-old brushed aside reports in the Croatian press concerning an alleged positive drugs test at Slovakia's 4-1 Davis Cup quarterfinal victory over Argentina here in September.

Captain Miloslav Mecir also tried to calm the unsubstantiated reports: "It's really unpleasant to answer questions like this. I don't know the source of this information.

"Definitely it brings an element of discomfort to the team. But we will try and overcome it with our spirit."

The final is the first since 1975 (when Sweden beat Czechoslovakia) that the Davis Cup title series has been contested by a pair of first-time finalists. The winner will become the 12th nation to lift the Davis Cup trophy.