Igor Andreev is the last thing Dudi Sela and company need. True, Nikolai Davidenko, who will miss the quarterfinal tie this weekend between Israel and Russia, is a much tougher draw. Yet, Andreev - the world's 24th best player in men's singles tennis - has nothing to be ashamed of. Like Sela, he advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon.
"To tell the truth, I didn't expect to get so far on Wimbledon's grass," he says. Andreev, 26, is also considered to be in the best shape, compared to his teammates.
The Russian learned his tennis at the Spartak academy in Moscow, where renting a court costs $80 an hour, but transfered to an academy in Spain when he was 15.
He actually beat Davidenko in his pro debut in 2003 and broke into the world's top 50 by age 21. He made his first final at a Swiss tournament, losing to Roger Federer. He won three ATP titles in 2005.
Family members say Andreev is a big admirer of Andre Agassi and has tried to mimic the American's moves. Andreev is a powerful hitter and considered a talented server, better than Dudi Sela.
"If Sela doesn't serve many aces, he makes up for it with other traits such as aggressive moves," says the Russian, who has yet to meet Sela or Harel Levy, Israel's two singles players.
Andreev's Davis Cup record is far from impressive: 12-10, with a 9-6 record in singles. Despite this, he sounds a confident tone for this weekend. "Nervous? Why should I be nervous?" he asks with a smile. "Everything is fine. The court is good, neither fast nor slow. The crowd won't get to me either. I've been through a lot in my career. All I need is to be focused and accurate."
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