LOS ANGELES, Nov 28 (Reuters) Russia's Davis Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev has ruled out any chance of Marat Safin being drafted in as a late replacement for this week's final against the United States in Portland, Oregon.
Former world number one Safin has struggled to find top form since coming back from a knee injury and was left out of the four-man squad announced this month.
''This is our strongest team,'' Tarpishchev told reporters at Memorial Coliseum yesterday.
''I think that these guys play better than Marat and he is not going to be here.'' Holders Russia will be represented by world number four Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny (19), Igor Andreev (33) and Dmitry Tursunov (34) when the three-day tie starts on Friday.
Although the Russians will be seeking a third Davis Cup title in just six years, Tarpishchev rates the Americans as strong favourites because of home-court advantage.
''It's not by chance that when we played in Moscow on the clay courts we won, because the clay court diminishes the attacking power of the players,'' he said, speaking through an interpreter.
Russia, spearheaded by the charismatic Safin, edged the US 3-2 in last year's World Group semi-final in Moscow before going on to beat Argentina at the same venue in the final.
''Here we'll be playing on a faster surface and, of course, the serve and volley will be very important factors,'' Tarpishchev added.
''This is why it's much harder to use tactical elements here. Obviously, the surface makes one team stronger and diminishes the capacities in some way of the other team.
''This is why I thought that back in Moscow we had a slight advantage over the American team. Here, however, I think the American team has this advantage.'' The Americans, bidding for their first Davis Cup triumph in 12 years, will be represented in Portland by big-serving Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike.
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