2015 Davis Cup Semifinals and World Group Playoffs Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A pair of semifinals take place starting Friday in the 2015 Davis Cup, along with the entire World Group Playoffs, with teams looking to move up to the world group or hang on to a coveted world group spot after an early exit in the world group main draw earlier on in the season.
World Group Semifinals
Australia vs. Great Britain
Tennis Atlantic will have onsite coverage as Australia travels to Glasgow, Scotland a raucous Emirates Arena for a commonwealth battle with team GB. The British have Andy Murray once more on indoor hard courts, and presuming he’s in shape, it’s likely he’ll be able to win his pair of singles rubbers over Thanasi Kokkinakis and likely Bernard Tomic on Friday and Sunday. This tie should come down to the doubles, as Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt, the veteran rock of the Australian team, are set to do battle with either Dominic Inglot/Jamie Murray, or perhaps the Murray brothers, or Inglot/Andy Murray depending on what team GB captain Leon Smith decides.
Challenger tour level player Dan Evans was an interesting choice for this tie, and is likely to be an afterthought against Tomic/Kokkinakis in singles. With all that said, we could well be looking at Evans in a live 5th rubber, and I give Australia a slight edge in this tie with a strong doubles pairing as long as their team doesn’t implode with so many combustible personalities. Tomic, of course, has his problems with Tennis Australia for starters.
Argentina vs. Belgium
The Belgians get home court advantage and thus get to hold this tie on a favorable indoor hard court surface in Brussels. That fact alone makes them the favorite in this tie, as David Goffin and his veteran teammate Steve Darcis should be able to manage three wins in singles alone against the Argentina pairing of Federico Delbonis and Leonardo Mayer that is scheduled for the singles rubbers.
Goffin has been in good form as of late, and Delbonis is poor on hard courts, though Mayer can play solid tennis at times and may have an edge over Darcis. In doubles it’s scheduled to be Kimmer Coppejans/Ruben Bemelmans against Carlos Berlocq/Diego Schwartzman, and given the surface, the Belgians also have an advantage there. In a surprising result, Belgium should see itself in the Davis Cup final, though they aren’t a powerhouse tennis nation.
World Group Playoffs
Czech Republic vs. India
India gets home court on outdoor hard but they face a Czech team with stronger players and more experience in Davis Cup. Yuki Bhambri and his teammate Somdev Devvarman, both of whom rank outside the ATP top 100 are expected to play singles against top 100 Czechs Jiri Vesely and Lukas Rosol while the veteran pairing of Leander Paes/Rohan Bopanna should have a minor edge over Radek Stepanek/Adam Pavlasek in doubles.
Vesely should be able to win both his singles matches, but look for Bhambri to potentially rise coming off of a challenger title. He’s a talented player and could shock Rosol in the opening rubber. With that said, the Czechs have a rankings and talent edge here and I have them pulling out a win.
Prediction: Czech Republic
Netherlands vs. Switzerland
At home on indoor hard it would be a shock if the Swiss won by anything less than a 3-0 sweep. That is due to the fact that the fearsome tandem of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are playing to keep them in the World Group against a Dutch squad lacking a top 100 player. The Dutch have underachievers Thiemo De Bakker, Jesse Huta Galung, Matwe Middelkoop, and Tim Van Rijthoven on their squad and they are facing a Swiss Goliath in this one. Barring an injury or change in the Swiss lineup, they should win this with ease, and Marco Chiudinelli and Henri Laaksonen will be able to get experience in the dead rubbers.
Italy vs. Russia
Italy has a solid veteran team but they do have to travel to Russia for this indoor hard court battle. Fabio Fognini, coming off his first hard court wins of the season in a strong US Open showing will look to continue the momentum against Russia’s Andrey Rublev and Teymuraz Gabashvili, and if he wins those matches, the pressure will fall on either Simone Bolelli or Andreas Seppi/Paolo Lorenzi to provide the tie clinching victory.
Rublev is a gutsy young gun battler and Gabashvili is a talented shotmaker at times, but outside of the combustible Fognini, the Italian team seems to have a consistency advantage on their side. Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk round out the Russian team that will need a true team effort to pull this off. Bolelli could falter, but Seppi and Fognini should be good enough to get the job done and keep Italy in the World Group.
USA vs. Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan has the huge advantage of getting to face team USA on red clay at home, and they could be facing a jet lagged USA due to the sheer difference in location. This is a tough test for American tennis which could see itself exiled from the World Group once more, if Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov can pull off an upset.
Team USA captain Jim Courier is going with some new faces on the team this time, with Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, and Donald Young joining veteran presence Sam Querrey. A lot of pressure will ride on Sock, who is the best clay court player on this team (he won an ATP title on clay this year in Houston) but is coming off of a heat stroke at the US Open, which could factor into his fitness. Istomin is a streaky player and Dustov is a challenger level player in poor form, so most likely Dustov will lose twice, and it may come down to Johnson/Querrey doubles to decide the tie. We could be looking at a live fifth rubber, but some how, some way, a unified Team USA should survive.
Japan vs. Colombia
Outdoors on clay team Colombia will have a chance against Kei Nishikori and Japan, but presuming Nishikori has resolved the injury that hurt him at the US Open, the team from the land of the rising sun are favorites in this tie. The veteran pairing of Santiago Giraldo and Alejandro Falla, along with doubles specialist tandem Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah are back for Colombia, while Japan has Nishikori, the young Yoshihito Nishioka, Yasutaka Uchiyama for doubles, and Taro Daniel, who is solid on clay, for singles.
The Colombians with a specialist doubles tandem should win that rubber, and pressure will fall on an out of form Giraldo to snap his slump and get past the still challenger level Daniel, who poses a threat to him. Presuming Nishikori is raring to play, look for him to beat Falla/Giraldo, and a live fifth rubber could be quite interesting in this one, especially in regards to which player, besides Nishikori, Japan will nominate for it. Cases can be made for the speedy Nishioka, or Daniel, based on how Daniel plays on Friday, but in the end I don’t feel Colombia is in good enough form to win this tie at the moment.
Germany vs. Dominican Republic
Germany, even on the road on hard courts in the Dominican Republic, are heavy favorites in this rubber simply because the DR has no top 200 players outside of veteran wonder Victor Estrella, who isn’t in world beating form at the moment. The German team has veterans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Benjamin Becker, with Philipp Petzschner and Dustin Brown for doubles. while the DR rounds out their team with Jose Hernandez-Fernandez, Roberto Cid, and Jose Olivares, an 18 year old.
Becker is in horrible form for this tie, and may lose his rubber, but Kohlschreiber and the German doubles tandem should be enough on their own to get the job done, as Estrella in his current form is not going to be able to do it all. I’m surprised Germany didn’t nominate Brown for singles over Becker.
Croatia vs. Brazil
Brazil gets home clay for this tie against European tennis power Croatia and if the veteran Thomaz Bellucci can step up, they may just pull off a big win over a weakened Croat team. Joining Bellucci are Joao Souza, a dirtballer, and Marcelo Melo/Bruno Soares for doubles. Croatia matches with the young gun Borna Coric, Ivan Dodig, and Franko Skugor for doubles, and Mate Delic as a second singles player.
Bellucci is in good form and should cruise past the challenger level Delic, while Coric presents a tougher test, but a winnable one all the same. Along with that, Brazil has a clear edge in doubles with their specialist pairing, and Delic should prove the weak link that sends Brazil through even though Souza is in abysmal form.
Slovakia vs. Poland
This closely matched European battle matches former Eastern Bloc nations on indoor hard court in Poland. Jerzy Janowicz, Michal Przysiezny, Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, the latter two for doubles, make up the Polish squad, while Slovakia counters with Martin klizan, Norbert Gombos, Andrej Martin, and Igor Zelenay, a doubles specialist.
Like a couple of the other WG playoff ties, this one could go either way and the potential Janowicz vs. Klizan Sunday clash may be what swings the tie. Klizan should be able to beat challenger level Przysiezny, and Gombos is a close match for him, while Janowicz is the wild card depending on his streaky form. The Polish team likely has an edge in doubles, so if Janowicz plays well, Poland should win, if he fails however, the advantage shifts to Slovakia. Given home court advantage, I’m favoring Poland by a hair in this one.
Action Outside of the World Group
Relatively few notable matches will take place outside of the World Group semis and playoffs this weekend, but Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer have gotten the Spanish Armada back together again and should steamroll a weak Danish team in Denmark to hold onto group 1 status. Likewise Ricardas Berankis and Lithuania are sure to have an edge at home against a Ukrainian team that lacks their best two players. Joao Sousa and Portugal face Belarus, and Gonzalo Lama and Chile face Venezuela.