2017 Davis Cup World Group Round 1 Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup kicks off for 2017 this weekend, in matches that feature Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios, Jack Sock, John Isner, Richard Gasquet, Alexander Zverev, and Dan Evans among others. Here is your preview and predictions for the matchups, with a look at who might shine in the national colors this weekend.
World Group Round 1 Matches
Italy at Argentina
The only world group tie taking place on clay this weekend pits defending champions Argentina against fellow clay loving nation Italy in Buenos Aires. Three top 100 Argentines, Diego Schwartzman, Carlos Berlocq, and Guido Pella are on the home squad, with veteran Leonardo Mayer as the fourth player. Veteran Paolo Lorenzi is Italy’s top ranked player, with Fabio Fognini, an in-form Andreas Seppi, and comeback kid Simone Bolelli completing their team. Bolelli hasn’t played a pro match since the middle of 2016, so it’s uncertain what part he’ll play in the tie. Home soil should inspire Argentina, a nation that fights hard in this team events, but with Lorenzi and Seppi as the top 2 players in this tie overall, I give Italy a slight edge to advance.
Belgium at Germany
The Zverev brothers recent success in Melbourne could continue on indoor hard courts in Frankfurt against Belgium. Along with Alexander and Mischa, Germany has veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, and top 60 ATP level player J.L. Struff to round out their squad. Belgium has veteran Steve Darcis leading the way, he’ll be playing alongside Ruben Bemelmans, Arthur De Greef, and Joris De Loore. The Belgians have just one top 60 player, while Germany has four. Regardless of how each team captain decides their rubber nominations, presuming team Germany is fit, they should win.
Czech Republic at Australia
After the Australian Open, the green and gold squad of Nick Kyrgios, Jordan Thompson, Sam Groth, and AO doubles champion John Peers got to stay in Melbourne to face off with the Czech Republic on outdoor hard courts. Veteran Radek Stepanek leads them, as Jiri Vesely, Jan Satral, and young gun Zdenek Kolar complete their squad. Stepanek is solid for the doubles, and Vesely will put up a fight, but presuming Kyrgios is healthy, he should win his matches. Given the Aussie edge in doubles, and the fact Thompson is an improving player, team Australia should prevail.
Switzerland at United States
Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka didn’t travel down south to Birmingham, Alabama for an indoor hard court contest against team USA. Without having much depth beyond their top two players, the Swiss are at a huge disadvantage against the Yanks. Jack Sock, John Isner, Sam Querrey, and Steve Johnson are all solid ATP players, while Henri Laaksonen, Marco Chiudinelli, Adrien Bossel, and Antoine Bellier are lacking in tour level accomplishments. Team United States should win with ease.
France at Japan
France hasn’t won the Davis Cup since 2001, but they once again bring one of the strongest and most well balanced team to the tournament. Veterans Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, and Nicolas Mahut lead team France. Pierre-Hugues Herbert is also on hand to pair with Mahut in the doubles tie. Japan is missing Kei Nishikori, which means Taro Daniel and Yoshihito Nishioka will be playing lead roles. Yasutaka Uchiyama and Yuichi Sugita are also on hand at home on indoor hard courts. Given the ATP level accomplishments of Gasquet and Simon, team France are heavy favorites against an inexperienced Japanese team. Mahut and Herbert should take the doubles and clinch the tie.
Great Britain at Canada
Despite the absence of ATP giants Andy Murray and Milos Raonic in Ottawa, this indoor hard court matchup between two commonwealth nations should be competitive, and entertaining. Teenager Denis Shapovalov and 44 year old Daniel Nestor are on the opposite ends of the career spectrum, but will play integral roles for team Canada in this tie. Vasek Pospisil and Peter Polansky round out the home squad. Team GB has the rising Dan Evans leading the way, with Kyle Edmund as #2 singles, and Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot for doubles.
Evans should have an edge in both singles matches, given his 7-2 start to the season, and the British doubles pairing is strong, despite Nestor and Pospisil’s doubles success. Given their edge in at least three of the five possible matches, team GB are my pick. Great Britain‘s Edmund is also in better form than the struggling Pospisil, Shapovalov, and Polansky.
Russia at Serbia
Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki will lead the way at home on indoor hard courts against Russia. Serbia brings Nenad Zimonjic for doubles, and Dusan Lajovic serves as their backup single player. Russia counters with two young guns, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov. Andrey Kuznetsov, an ATP level player, is also on their team, with Konstantin Kravchuk as their fourth player. Presuming Djokovic plays for Serbia throughout the competition, paired alongside Troicki, this Serbian team are favorites to take home the title at years end, and Serbia should routine Russia in this one, barring once in a lifetime performances from Russia in singles.
Spain at Croatia
Spain brings three top 40 singles players to do battle on indoor hard courts in Croatia. The defending DC finalist Croats are lacking all of their nation’s top men’s tennis talents. A team of Franko Skugor, Nikola Mektic, Ante Pavic, and Marin Draganja, all relative journeymen, is unlikely to stand up well against Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, and the Lopez brothers, Feliciano and Marc. Spain should sweep, with the Lopez brothers clinching the doubles rubber.
Notable Action Outside of the World Group
Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri leads the way against Sweden, while Casper Ruud leads a young Norwegian team against Latvia in the only notable ties in Group 2 level play. Taiwan and China face off in an Asia Group 1 tie that should roil political tensions. Denis Istomin, fresh off his victory against Novak Djokovic in Melbourne leads Uzbekistan against a young South Korean team that should feature recent Challenger champion Hyeon Chung, and the deaf Duckhee Lee.
In Europe/Africa Group 1, Lukas Lacko and Martin Klizan’s Slovakia will will be favorites against Hungary. 39 year old Max Mirnyi should play for Belarus against Romania, and Joao Sousa’s Portugal are home favorites against Dudi Sela and Israel.