Satoshi Iwabuchi - Japan Davis Cup by Rakuten captain- had a fine career of his own as a former player, winning a gold medal at the 1998 Asian Games in doubles, and a silver in singles.
How did you get involved as captain?
I don’t know exactly why they asked me to be captain! I suppose I had experience from playing Davis Cup and knew how difficult it is and how important it is for your tennis career. I started the job as captain two years ago.
Is Davis Cup always something you’ve been passionate about?
Yes, it is. When I was a player the Davis Cup was always one of the most important targets for me. It was always a goal to be on the Davis Cup team for Japan. My generation of players were always in Asia Group 1 and we were always trying to reach the World Group. I played in two World Group play-offs but we didn’t make it when I was playing. The generation we have now is much stronger. The next step for us is to make new history and for Japan to do well at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.
What is it like being captain?
It’s not easy! It’s a different kind of nerves as captain. There’s more pressure than when I was playing Davis Cup. But I’m focused on building a good team and I try to make sure there’s good communication between me and the players and their teams.
"The next step for us is to make new history and for Japan to do well at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid."
What was it like to beat China in the play-offs in February?
That was very very tough. China has a lower ranking than us and we had to beat them in February. Our players felt really really big pressure. China are also in Asia so they really wanted to beat us, and the tie was away in China which made it difficult. We beat them 3-2 but it was very very close. It was huge for us and we’re very happy to be in Madrid.
How important is it for Japan to be in the Finals for the profile of the sport?
Yes, it’s very important. Grand Slams and the Davis Cup are big news in Japan when Japanese players make big results. Tennis is not a big enough sport in Japan and I want to make it bigger. It’s a good chance for us to show the people what Davis Cup is and how exciting it is to watch.
How do you prepare for Madrid?
I try to get the players together often - especially at the Grand Slams. Our national coach also travels with Yoshihito Nishioka and we send a physical trainer and physio to help the squad members on tour. We try to keep in touch and build a good relationship with the players.
What do you think of your group with France and Serbia?
They both have experience of winning Davis Cup. Especially France - they have a great history in Davis Cup. My image of France is so strong in the competition. But with the new format of three matches each day and best of three sets we have a better chance of causing an upset. So we have a chance. And also we have one of the top players in the world in Kei Nishikori. If he’s in good condition he can beat almost anyone. It’s a hard group but it’s a great opportunity for us.
Want to help your team to win the Davis Cup by Rakuten? Show your colours next November. Tickets here!