2016 Davis Cup World Group Semifinals Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Post US Open, the attention in the tennis world shifts to the Davis Cup as Great Britain battle Argentina in Glasgow, and France travels to Croatia for a home tie for the Croats. The World Group playoffs also take place this weekend, with a host of teams looking to either remain in, or make next year’s World Group. Here is your comprehensive preview.
World Group semifinals
Argentina vs. Great Britain
Juan Martin Del Potro and Argentina have a great chance to upset team GB at home and reach the Davis Cup final, after dispatching the defending champions. The British refuse to give up their title that easily though, and a hard court surface will help their team perform its best.
Andy Murray will lead off against Del Potro, in a match I make him a slight favorite in after Murray won their Olympic gold medal match. Kyle Edmund, coming off a strong showing at the US Open, should defeat dirtballer Guido Pella, and that would put team GB 2-0 up. The Murray brothers, including US Open champion Jamie Murray are in for the doubles as well, opposite Federico Delbonis and Leonardo Mayer. Dan Evans is also on team GB as a reverse.
Team Argentina is a gutsy, working man’s team, but unless Del Potro can win two singles rubbers, and Argentina can snag the doubles, it’s hard to see them winning this tie. Murray+Edmund should be enough to get the Brits into their second straight Davis Cup final. British tennis is on the rise and Great Britain are my pick.
France vs. Croatia
Marin Cilic and Borna Coric are solid players for Croatia, but neither are in great form, and even though they get a home tie, the combined skills of Lucas Pouille and Richard Gasquet make France the favorites. The French doubles team of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut is one of the elite teams in the world, the Croatians counter with the less accomplished Ivan Dodig and Marin Draganja.
Pouille’s strong showing at the US Open bodes well for him, and although Gasquet may be a bit shaky, I don’t see him losing both rubbers, and the French losing the doubles, thus France should will their way to a win.
World Group Playoffs
Switzerland vs. Uzbekistan
A Swiss team without US Open champion Wawrinka, and the injured Federer, is more than likely going to go down in defeat to Uzbekistan on clay in Tashkent. The Swiss will fall from the World Group almost certainly, given Antoine Bellier, Henri Laaksonen, Adrien Bossel, and Johan Nikles aren’t even that accomplished on the challenger tour, much less the ATP level. Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov are both credible enough for Uzbekistan, and they are joined by young guns Sanjar Fayziev and Jurabek Karimov.
Brazil vs. Belgium
The indoor hard court surface and home venue make Belgium the favorites to stay in the World Group vs. Brazil. Thiago Monteiro and Thomaz Bellucci are a bit more comfortable on clay, although the Brazilians have a great doubles team in the form of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares.
Belgium‘s balanced team features a solid ATP player in the form of David Goffin, and veteran serve and volleyer Steve Darcis. Joris De Loore and Ruben Bemelmans are on hand for doubles. Goffin should get two wins, and I’d favor Darcis over Monteiro, even if Brazil can take the doubles and keep the tie alive.
Slovakia vs. Australia
A grass court in Sydney gives team Australia the edge against Slovakia. Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic are leading the way, with Sam Groth and John Peers in for doubles. Slovakia counters with challenger tour regulars Andrej Martin and Jozef Kovalik, with Martin and Igor Zelenay scheduled for doubles. Tomic, Kyrgios, and Groth all love playing on grass, and they should dominate on this fast surface.
Chile vs. Canada
Canada is playing at home in Halifax, and despite not having their strong team, they should still be able to dispatch a Chilean team that prefers clay. Vasek Pospisil leads team Canada, although he’s had a miserable year and could drop a match or two. Frank Dancevic, young gun Denis Shapovalov, and doubles specialist Adil Shamasdin round out the team.
Chile has challenger level players Gonzalo Lama, Christian Garin, Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, and Nicolas Jarry. Garin and Jarry may yet mature into ATP caliber players, but I doubt this will be a week to remember for them given Canada has a well rounded team.
Kazakhstan vs. Russia
This hard court matchup in Moscow starts out with Russia being slight favorites, but Kazakhstan clearly capable of bridging that gap and winning this tie to remain in the World Group. Russia has a solid pairing of Andrey Kuznetsov and Evgeny Donskoy as their top two, with Konstantin Kravchuk and Andrey Rublev set for doubles.
Kazakhstan counters with veteran Mikhail Kukushkin, Aleksandr Nedovyesov, and Andrey Golubev, with Dmitry Popko in reserve. The Kazak team always plays with great chemistry and heart, but Russia has a stronger team, their players simply need to step up and will out a win.
Spain vs. India
Rafael Nadal will be the talk of India, as he leads the Spanish armada into New Delhi to face an upstart Indian team. Nadal, David Ferrer, and the Lopez brothers, Marc and Feliciano, make up a loaded Spanish team.
India counters with the improving Ramkumar Ramanathan, and Saketh Myneni, with veteran Leander Paes for doubles. Sumit Nagal is in reserve. Team India has no business winning a single rubber in this tie, and anything less than a sweep for Spain, with their experienced ATP veterans, would be a shock.
Poland vs. Germany
A battle of European neighbors on clay in Berlin. J.L Struff and veteran Florian Mayer feature for Germany, alongside Daniel Brands and Daniel Masur for doubles. Poland counters with a weaker team of challenger level players Kamil Majchrzak, Hubert Hurkacz, and a doubles team of Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski.
If Poland had Jerzy Janowicz, they might have a chance here, but even with Germany bringing their B team, they are still stronger at everything except the doubles. A Polish win in doubles would bring this tie into Sunday.
Ukraine vs. Japan
Ukraine travels to Japan, led by their new national #1 Illya Marchenko, who achieved a best ever second week showing at the US Open. Marchenko is joined by Artem Smirnov, and Danylo Kalenichenko, with ATP veteran Sergiy Stakhovsky on the team, but not scheduled to play.
Japan has their top player Kei Nishikori, plus the solid Taro Daniel, Yoshihito Nishioka, and Yuichi Sugita. With Nishikori leading Japan, I’d be shocked to see them lose at home, as Ukraine is missing Stakhovsky and Alexandr Dolgopolov. Japan are clear favorites.