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Nadal to play Gasquet in Davis Cup semi opener

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the men's final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York
Rafael Nadal of Spain returns to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the men's final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish world number two Rafa Nadal will play France's Richard Gasquet in the opening singles rubber of their Davis Cup semi-final on Friday, it was decided at Thursday's draw.

Nadal's participation in the best-of-five tie on clay in Cordoba had been in doubt after he lost a grueling U.S. Open final to number one Novak Djokovic on Monday.

However, after flying straight back to Spain to join team mates David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez, he said he did not feel physically drained and was ready to help his country as they bid for a third title in four years.

Nadal has beaten 15th-ranked Gasquet in all nine matches they have played on the ATP Tour and it will be their first meeting in the Davis Cup.

Spanish world number five David Ferrer plays Gilles Simon, the number 11, in Friday's second singles rubber and Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco are due to meet Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Saturday's doubles match.

As hosts, Spain have chosen to play the tie on their favored red dust and with clay king Nadal playing they are firm favorites to advance to December's final, where they would meet champions Serbia or Argentina.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Mark Meadows)

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