2016 Davis Cup World Group First Round Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2016 Davis Cup will kickoff with the first round of the World Group and a host of ties at levels below the world group as many of the top players in men’s tennis will be donning the national uniform and representing their country in an Olympic year. Here is a look at the World Group matchups.
Japan vs. Great Britain
The defending champion Brits take on a rising Japan, in a tie that Tennis Atlantic is proud to have credentialed coverage from. Andy Murray will be in action for team GB, and the decisive match is likely to take place in the 4th rubber between Murray and Kei Nishikori. Dan Evans is GB’s #2, with Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot available for doubles. Japan counters with Taro Daniel as their singles #2, and has Yoshihito Nishioka, and Yasutaka Uchiyama scheduled for doubles, though Nishioka can also play singles.
Given the indoor hard court surface, with GB hosting, they should be the favorite. Murray is 4-1 against Nishikori, and Evans likely has a slight edge on indoor hard against Daniel, who prefers clay. Team GB also has a stronger doubles team.
Prediction: Great Britain
Kazakhstan vs. Serbia
With world #1 Novak Djokovic participating after an eye infection forced him out of ATP Dubai, team Serbia are heavy favorites against Kazakhstan at home in Belgrade on indoor hard court. Djokovic is joined by Viktor Troicki, one of the strongest players on tour this year, with Filip Krajinovic as a reserve player, and Nenad Zimonjic as the doubles specialist.
Kazakhstan has Mikhail Kukushkin, Aleksandr Nedovyesov, and Andrey Golubev, with Dmitry Popko in reserve. None of the Kazakh players are stronger than fringe ATP regulars, and it would take a miracle, or an injury, for Serbia to lose this tie.
Switzerland vs. Italy
Indoor red clay is the surface as Italy plays host to a Swiss team that lacks a top 100 player. Andreas Seppi, Paolo Lorenzi, Simone Bolelli, and Marco Cecchinato get the call for Italy, with Lorenzi having a good year on clay, and Seppi and Bolelli ATP regulars.
Switzerland has a veteran presence in the form of Marco Chiudinelli, along with Henri Laaksonen, and Adrian Bossel. Just like in the previous tie, it would be a shock if Italy even lost a match in this tie given the mismatch between the players. If the Swiss had Federer and Wawrinka, things would be quite different.
Argentina vs. Poland
19 year old Hubert Hurkacz will have a heavy weight on his shoulders as he makes his Davis Cup debut at home on indoor hard courts for Poland. Former top 100 veteran Michal Przysiezny, now a challenger level player, joins him, with veterans Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski set for doubles.
Argentina is disadvantaged greatly by the surface, but has a more accomplished team with Guido Pella, Leonardo Mayer, veteran Carlos Berlocq, and Renzo Olivo. Given Hurkacz has never played an ATP match, Przysiezny is playing for the first time this year, and Mayer is a decent hard court player, Argentina should win rather comfortably.
Canada vs. France
This tie is played on French soil but it’s practically on a neutral site given it’s in the Caribbean on outdoor clay. France should have an advantage if they can stay healthy and focused. Veterans Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga form their team, while Canada is missing Milos Raonic, and Daniel Nestor. Frank Dancevic is now leading off in singles, with Vasek Pospisil, and Philip Bester also scheduled to play. They also subbed in Adil Shamasdin for doubles.
Pospisil is the only ATP caliber player on the Canadian team, while the French have any combination of four solid clay court stars. This tie could well be over in three rubbers.
Czech Republic vs. Germany
Indoor hard courts in Hanover are the venue as Germany are slight underdogs against the Czech Republic, in one of the most interesting ties of the week. The veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber will lead them off against big hitter Lukas Rosol, and the young gun Alexander Zverev will follow against top 10 player Tomas Berdych.
The exciting Dustin Brown, and veteran Philipp Petzschner are also available for Germany in doubles. The Czechs counter with Jiri Vesely, and Radek Stepanek, with Vesely available for singles and doubles.
Kohlschreiber leads Rosol 4-1 in h2h matches and his form recently has been strong. Berdych is 2-0 against Zverev over the last two seasons, but both matches were competitive on indoor hard courts, Zverev can’t be counted out. The doubles should prove crucial and decide the tie if Berdych wins over Kohlschreiber in the fourth rubber, but if Germany wins the doubles, Zverev is a slight favorite against Rosol in rubber #5.
Prediction: Czech Republic
USA vs. Australia
Home grass courts will give Australia plenty of hope against Team USA, but they are still underdogs as Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are both out. Bernard Tomic will be leading the way, with the big server Sam Groth joining him, John Peers as a doubles specialist, and the captain Lleyton Hewitt nominating himself as a reserve player if needed. Should Hewitt play, this will be his final Davis Cup tie most likely.
Team USA has John Isner to match Groth’s serves, Jack Sock, and the Bryan Brothers for doubles. Isner has lost three straight matches, but Groth has lost five straight, giving Isner the edge in his first match. Tomic is 0-3 against Sock in the h2h, but has been in better recent form compared to Sock. On grass, Tomic should be the favorite, and Isner is 1-0 in the h2h against Tomic.
The Bryans have an edge in doubles, and Sock also has an edge over Groth, meaning team USA should find a way to win.
Croatia vs. Belgium
Last year’s David Cup finalist have a tough defense on indoor clay against Croatia at home. David Goffin is leading them, and he has a 2-0 h2h record against his first opponent, the young Borna Coric. Marin Cilic will have a big edge over challenger level player Kimmer Coppejans in his first match though, and the veteran performer should grab a win.
After an expected 1-1 opening day, Ivan Dodig and Franko Skugor should have a big edge in doubles over Bemelmans and Arthur De Greef, both challenger level players.
Goffin and Cilic have never played before, though I give Goffin a slight edge on clay to extend the tie, and force Coric to defeat Coppejans. The young gun has proven his mettle thus far in his career though and I expect him to get the job done if needed.
Notable action outside of the World Group
In Europe-Africa Group 1, Marius Copil and Romania take on Blaz Rola and Slovenia on indoor hard courts. Joao Sousa and Gastao Elias are slated to face Dominic Thiem and Austria on indoor hard courts in Portugal.
We’ll have updates on DC ties through the weekend, with a full recap to follow after the matches are complete.