Davis Cup: Argentina starts title defence without Del Potro

After returning triumphantly from injury last year, World No. 38 Juan Martin del Potro, 28, is skipping this year's Davis Cup to concentrate on preparing for the tour circuit.

Juan Martin del Potro was instrumental in winning the Davis Cup for Argentina last year.   -  AP

Argentina launches its campaign to defend the Davis Cup title on Friday without its star Juan Martin del Potro when it hosts Italy in Buenos Aires.

Having won its first ever Davis Cup title in November against Croatia, Argentina has a weakened team going into the tie against contender Italy.

After returning triumphantly from injury last year, World No. 38 Del Potro, 28, is skipping this year's Davis Cup to concentrate on preparing for the tour circuit.

The holder will also be without the other star of last year's title, World No. 49 Federico Delbonis.

Its countryman Diego Schwartzman, meanwhile, will miss the first day of the tie on the clay at Buenos Aires' Parque Sarmiento due to a foot injury.

Friday's rubbers will start with Argentina's Guido Pella against Italy's Paolo Lorenzi.

Carlos Berlocq will then stand in for Schwartzman against Fabio Fognini.

The remaining rubbers were to be confirmed depending partly on the recovery of Schwartzman, World No. 53 at age 24.

Team captain Daniel Orsanic could not confirm whether Schwartzman would be able to partner with Leonardo Mayer (World No. 146) in the doubles Saturday against Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi.

Orsanic told reporters he hoped Schwartzman would recover in time to play a singles game on Sunday.

"We are slight favorites," said Italy team captain Corrado Barazzutti.

"But we will be facing players who are very good and when they play for Argentina, they play with their hearts."

The winner of this weekend's tie will face Belgium or Germany in the quarterfinals in April.

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