Tennis

Davis Cup: Nadal to play for Spain

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal will return to Davis Cup action for the first time since 2011.
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MADRID (AP)

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek will play for defending champion Czech Republic when it meets Argentina in next week's Davis Cup semifinals.

SLAM DANCE

Take a look back at each of Rafael Nadal's 13 Grand Slam titles.

In the other semifinal, top-ranked Novak Djokovic will lead Serbia against a Canadian team powered by Milos Raonic. This is the first time Canada has made the World Group semis.

The semifinal winners will meet for the title in November.

Rafael Nadal will play next week for Spain in a World Group playoff against Ukraine. It's the first time he's playing in the Davis Cup since his country won the 2011 final.

Berdych was injured and did not play in the Czech Republic's quarterfinal victory at Kazakhstan. Injury also prevented Stepanek from playing in the first-round win at Switzerland.

Lukas Rosol, Jiri Vesely, Jan Hajek are also on the squad announced Tuesday for the Sept 13-15 matches on an indoor hard court at Prague's O2 Arena. Berdych and Stepanek played all five matches when the Czechs beat Spain 3-2 in last year's final in Prague.

In their last series with Argentina, the Czechs won 3-2 in Buenos Aires in the semis last year.

Raonic, ranked No. 11, will be joined for the clay-court matches at Belgrade Arena by veteran Daniel Nestor, Vasek Pospisil and Frank Dancevic. Also on the Serbian team are Janko Tipsarevic, Nenad Zimonjic and Dusan Lajovic.

Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau understands the strength of the Serbs, who won the title in 2010.

"This is a recent Davis Cup-winning squad with the No. 1 player in the world on it," he said. "The year they won the championship was also the year they won their first World Group tie ever. We are looking to follow in their footsteps but we need to get past them first."

Nadal will team with Tommy Robredo, Fernando Verdasco and Marc Lopez for the World Group playoff against Ukraine at Madrid's Caja Magica, beginning Sept. 13.

Nadal last played for Spain in December 2011, when he won the last point of the final against Argentina in Seville, earning Spain its fifth title. Nadal's absence was largely because of a knee injury that sidelined him for seven months last season.

Spain captain Alex Corretja clearly was happy to have Nadal back, saying he spreads "vitality and optimism" to his teammates.

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