2014 Davis Cup Semifinals Preview, Predictions Jeff McMillan, Tennis East Coast
Czech Republic @ France
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris
Surface: Outdoor Red Clay
Rubber 1: Thomas Berdych vs Richard Gasquet
Rubber 2: Lukas Rosol vs Jo-Wilfired Tsonga
Rubber 3: Radek Stepnaek/Jiri Vesely vs Julian Benneteau/Gael Monfils
Rubber 4: Thomas Berdych vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Rubber 5: Lukas Rosol vs Richard Gasquet
France selected clay in an attempt to neutralize Rosol and Berdych, both of whom play their weakest tennis on the red dirt. The French have many advantages here: the home crowd, the surface and the form of their players. However, team captain Arnaud Clement has made the controversial decision to play Gasquet in singles instead of Gael Monfils, who is certainly in better form, arguably the stronger player on clay and more embracing of a wild crowd like the ones that the Davis Cup bring. The selection of Gasquet will make this tie a closer affair and give the Czechs a fighting chance of going into Paris and getting the upset. Berdych should defeat Gasquet in the opening match. Barring a truly inspired display from Rosol, Tsonga will then even the tie at 1-1 heading into day 2. The remaining matches are all a slight edge to France, meaning they should take 2 of the 3 to beat the Czech Republic 3-2.
Italy @ Switzerland
Venue: Palexpo, Geneva
Surface: Indoor Hard
Rubber 1: Simone Bolelli vs Roger Federer
Rubber 2: Fabio Fognini vs Stanislas Wawrinka
Rubber 3: Paolo Lorenzi/Andreas Seppi vs Roger Federer/Stanislas Wawrinka
Rubber 4: Fabio Fognini vs Roger Federer
Rubber 5: Simone Bolelli vs Stanislas Wawrinka
Switzerland looks to continue their march to a maiden Davis Cup title and Federer looks to add the elusive Davis Cup title to his immense resume. For Italy, they are trying to extend an already impressive Davis Cup run that included Fabio Fognini routining Andy Murray in Napoli to send Italy into the semis. Fognini will need to produce an even more magnificent display of tennis and get plenty of help from Simone Bolelli, who has been preferred to Andrea Seppi in singles, if Italy is to pull off a massive upset in Geneva. Switzerland is the heavy favorite in all 5 ties and should roll at home to the final.
World Group DC Semifinals Set: Italy/Switzerland, Czech Republic/France Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
It was a wild weekend of Davis Cup action, and upsets seemed possible, but in the end, all the favored teams advanced to the world group semifinals. Here is a review.
Czech Republic d. Japan 5-0
Radek Stepanek led the way as the Czechs whitewashed Japan, winning both singles rubbers on Friday in 4 and 5 sets respectively (Stepanek d. Tatsuma Ito, Lukas Rosol d. Taro Daniel) and then clinching the doubles with Rosol/Stepanek defeating Ito/Yasutaka Uchiyama for a 3-0 victory.
Rosol beat Uchiyama and Jiri Vesely beat Daniel in the dead rubbers to complete the sweet, as the defending DC champions earned a big road win and are into the semis again.
France d. Germany 3-2
France was nearly upset at home by an underdog German team that put up a good fight, but they managed to pull themselves together after an atrocious Friday singles to win a deciding fifth rubber.
Tobias Kamke upset Julien Benneteau, and Peter Gojowczyk played well above his normal level to defeat a struggling Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 5 sets, 6-8 in the fifth. Germany had 3 chances from there to clinch the tie, but never came close to doing so, as Benneteau/Michael Llodra beat Andre Begemann/Kamke in Saturday doubles, in 4 sets, and then Tsonga and Gael Monfils beat Kamke and Gojowczyk in the Sunday live singles rubbers to clinch the tie. Both Sunday singles matches were straight sets, and not particularly close, as Monfils was a big injection of energy for the French team, and Kamke and Gojowczyk returned to their normal level, along with being fatigued.
A French team strong on paper, they will face the Czechs in the semis at home.
Italy d. Great Britain 3-2
In another near upset, Italy was put on the ropes by team GB but clawed back on Sunday for a big victory at home. Fabio Fognini was again the hero, as he won twice in singles, on Friday with a 4 set victory over James Ward, and on Sunday to keep the tie alive with a straight set drubbing of Andy Murray.
Andreas Seppi went 1-1 in singles, as he lost on Friday to Murray in straights, but clinched the tie with a straight set victory over Ward in the fifth rubber on Sunday. Colin Fleming and Murray won the doubles over Simone Bolelli and Fognini in 4 sets on Saturday to put team GB up 2-1 and a win away from clinching, but team GB was hapless from there on out.
Switzerland d. Kazahkstan 3-2
The Swiss very nearly choked in what would have been one of the biggest Davis Cup upsets in modern history, but they survived just like their French and Italian counterparts to prevail at home in Geneva.
Stan Wawrinka continued his string of poor play post Australian Open, as he lost in 4 sets to Andrey Golubev on Friday, and then lost the doubles with partner Roger Federer to Golubev/Aleksandr Nedovyesov on Saturday in 4 sets as well.
Federer was really the hero this time for Switzerland, as his two straight sets singles victories over Mikhail Kukushkin and Golubev on Friday and Sunday clinched the tie. Wawrinka kept it alive on Sunday with a 4 set victory over Kukushkin, credit to the Kazahks for battling hard in this one.
Switzerland hosts Italy at home in the semis.
Action Outside World Group:
Brazil and Colombia made their way to the World Group playoffs out of Americas Group 1, as Rogerio Dutra and Brazil beat Emilio Gomez and Colombia 3-1, and Santiago Giraldo and Alejandro Falla teamed up for Colombia yet again to defeat Victor Estrella and the Dominican Republic 4-1.
Asia/Oceania Group 1 World Group Playoff representatives will be India and Uzbekistan, as Somdev Devvarman led India to a 3-1 victory over South Korea, and Denis Istomin led Uzbekistan to a 3-2 victory over China, as Di Wu won twice for them but Ze Zhang couldn’t do the same in a super close, competitive tie that came down to a live fifth rubber won by Farrukh Dustov over Zhang in 5 sets.
In Europe/Africa Group 1 finals Marin Cilic and Croatia beat Jerzy Janowicz and Poland 3-1, as Janowicz was upset by the young and rising Borna Coric, Dudi Sela and Israel upset Blaz Rola and Slovenia 3-1, Sergiy Stakhovsky and his teammates gave Ukraine something to cheer for, as they beat Sweden 4-1, including a 13-11 final set victory by Stakhovsky over Johan Brunstrom in the first rubber and Lukas Lacko and Slovakia beat Dominic Thiem and Austria 4-1 to complete the world group playoffs participants.
In a couple of notable Europe/Africa Group 2 ties, Damir Dzhumhur and Bosnia beat Jarkko Nieminen and Finland 3-2 with a live fifth rubber, and Ricardas Berankis and Lithuania beat Rik De Voest and South Africa in the same fashion 3-2 with a live fifth rubber.
2014 Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The 2014 DC semifinals will be set this weekend with the four DC quarterfinals across two continents.
Here’s a preview of all the action.
Japan vs. Czech Republic
With both Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda out of this tie for Japan, their chances of advancing, even at home in Tokyo on indoor hard are severely stunted. The Czechs are missing Tomas Berdych, but they have Radek Stepanek and Lukas Rosol, plus the young Jiri Vesely, all of whom are in decent form and competitive on indoor hard courts. Japan has Tatsuma Ito leading the way, and two rising young players, Taro Daniel and Yasutaka Uchiyama, but 3 top 70 players and a great doubles player In Stepanek gives the Czechs a clear edge over a Japanese team without a top 130 player. It could be 4-1 or 5-0 to finish, depending if Ito or the young Daniel, who has been given his first call up with Japan, can grab some sort of an upset.
The Pick: Czech Republic
France vs. Germany
On paper, this would be a competitive tie, but Germany is missing all of their top players (Tommy Haas, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer), while France is again stacked with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Julien Benneteau and Gael Monfils, along with Michael Llodra to play doubles. Germany’s C team of Tobias Kamke, Peter Gojowczyk and Andre Begemann for doubles is their counterweight. Even with the French team out of form, with Tsonga struggling and Monfils nagged by “personal problems”, it would take an heroic performance from the veteran Kamke and the challenger level player Gojowcyk to make this competitive. On indoor hard, at home in France, it’s hard to see a different result than France 3-0 with the tie over by Saturday doubles.
The Pick: France
Italy vs. Great Britain
Team GB has Andy Murray again, but they will be underdogs against Italy on clay in Naples. A slightly injured Fabio Fognini leads the way for Italy, backed up by the struggling but steady Andreas Seppi, and then Paolo Lorenzi and Simone Bolelli probably to play the doubles tie. Team GB has Colin Fleming/Ross Hutchins as the doubles specialist team and then James Ward as second singles backing up Murray.
On a faster surface, team GB might even be favorites, and this will be the closest tie of the weekend I’m almost certain, but on clay, if Ward loses twice to Fognini and Seppi (or even Lorenzi), team GB will only need to lose once between 2 Murray singles rubbers and the doubles rubber to lose the tie. Those odds make me go with Italy, perhaps 3-2.
The Pick: Italy
Switzerland vs. Kazakhstan
Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka lead the Swiss Express against Kazakhstan, backed up with Henri Laaksonen and Michael Lammer in reserve. Even with Stan out of form, Fed is playing well, and at home on indoor hard in Geneva they are expected to steamroll a Kazahk team made of up of Andrey Golubev, Mikhail Kukushkin, Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Evgeny Korolev. All three singles players for the Kazahks are ranked in the top 80, but Wawrinka and Federer are top ten, so assuming no injuries or funny business, I expect a 3-0/5-0 rout in this one.
Radek Stepanek once again led the Czech Republic to a resounding 3-2 victory over a tenacious Serbian team led by Novak Djokovic.
Stepanek and his teammates, including Tomas Berdych have repeated as DC champions and won one of the biggest trophies in tennis for the second time.
In the first rubber, Djokovic handled Stepanek easily in straights but Tomas Berdych countered back to even the tie at 1-1 after Friday with a straight sets victory over Dusan Lajovic.
The critical Saturday doubles point was won by Stepanek/Berdych over Zimonjic/Bozoljac in straights.
On Sunday, Djokovic kept the tie alive with a straight sets victory over Berdych, but Stepanek destroyed Lajovic in the 5th rubber to clinch the Davis Cup title. Serbia was clearly hurt by the fact their team was shorthanded and Djokovic could not do it all by himself.
2013 Davis Cup Final: Serbia vs. Czech Republic Preview, Predictions
The 2010 and 2012 Davis Cup Champions battle it out starting today to crown the 2013 Davis Cup champion. Serbia, led by Novak Djokovic, will face the Czech Republic led by the duo of Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych. This one is expected to be close and both teams are deserving of the DC final as they are teams with talent, chemistry and desire.
The final will be played in Belgrade on indoor hard courts.
For team Serbia, they have Novak Djokovic, who is undefeated this fall as their number 1. He should be a near lock to win his 2 singles rubbers tentatively scheduled to be against Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych. Those wins would put the Serbs within one win of the tie and they would need to win just 1 of the 3 other matches.
However, they do have cause for concern as their normal number 2 and 3 players, Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki are both out of this tie. Tipsarevic intended to play, though he has had a very poor season but withdrew in favor of Dusan Lajovic, a young player close to breaking into the top 100.
Troicki is out with a controversial doping ban.
The Serbian doubles tandem will be Nenad Zimonjic/Ilija Bozoljac who have played well so far this Davis Cup.
For the Czech Republic, they have relied on the chemistry and passion of Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych to carry them both this year and last and it has served them well. However, Stepanek has dealt with some injury issues and his ranking and level of play has dropped a little, while Berdych was so-so this fall.
Their doubles team will be Jan Hajek/Lukas Rosol. Hajek isn’t great indoors or in great form, but Rosol is a solid player indoors and his game seems to be improving from a severe slump for part of this season.
The doubles rubber will be key and if Serbia can win it, they should be home free barring a massive upset by Berdych or Stepanek over a top form and seemingly healthy Djokovic. Though he has played a lot of tennis this fall, Djokovic has gotten a few days off since the World Tour Finals, which also probably helped prep him for this indoor DC final.
However, if the Czechs win the doubles rubber Berdych and Stepanek will both need to beat Lajovic, which is doable, in order to win the tie for them.
In the end I’m going to pick Serbia as they should win 3-1 with a dead 5th rubber (2 Djokovic singles wins and a doubles win).
Serbia, Czech Republic to Meet in Davis Cup Final; Netherlands, Britain, Australia Join World Group
World Group Semis:
Serbia d. Canada 3-2
Serbia got a pair of singles wins from Novak Djokovic and came from behind as Janko Tipsarevic won the decisive 5th rubber in straight sets over Vasek Pospisil, sending the home team into the final.
Canada’s Milos Raonic grabbed a singles win, and Canada won the doubles but it wasn’t enough as they lost twice on Sunday.
Czech Republic d. Argentina 3-2
The Czechs clinched on Saturday and they will have a shot to repeat as DC champions. Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek went 2-0 on Friday against Juan Monaco and Leo Mayer, then won the doubles over Berlocq/Zeballos to clinch 3-0. Horacio Zeballos and Leo Mayer won the 2 dead rubbers on Sunday over Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely.
World Group Playoffs
Spain d. Ukraine 5-0
Spain blanked Ukraine, with Fernando Verdasco and Rafael Nadal winning their singles rubbers, and Nadal/Marc Lopez winning the Saturday doubles to seal it.
Alex Dolgopolov and Sergiy Stakhovsky just couldn’t get it done for the away team and Lopez/Verdasco won the two dead singles rubbers.
Netherlands d. Austria 5-0
The Dutch make the big show as Robin Haase grabbed a singles win over replacement player Oliver Marach, along with a Saturday doubles victory with Jean-Julien Rojer over Julian Knowle and Marach to clinch.
Thiemo De Bakker beat Jurgen Melzer on Friday in the other singles, and the shutout was completed on Sunday as Jesse Huta Galung and De Bakker added wins.
Great Britain d. Croatia 4-1
Andy Murray got 2 singles wins and took part in a doubles win (with Colin Fleming) to almost singlehandedly take out a weakened Croatian team and send the Union Jack into the World Group, where Murray says he will participate.
Ivan Dodig did beat Dan Evans on Friday to even things at 1-1, but fell to Murray in the first singles rubber on Sunday and that was that.
Switzerland d. Ecuador 4-1
Stan Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli got the hosts off to a 2-0 start Friday before Wawrinka and Michael Lammer clinched the doubles point to secure their continued participation in the World Group.
Lammer got one of the dead rubber singles wins but Gonzalo Escobar got the other one to guarantee Ecuador got on the board.
Germany d. Brazil 4-1
Phillip Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer got the hosts off to a 2-0 start, but Brazil kept the tie alive by winning the doubles point with Melo/Soares.
Daniel Brands beat Thomaz Bellucci in the first Sunday match to seal the result, however, and Mayer finished things off with a dead rubber win.
Australia d. Poland 4-1
Lleyton Hewitt and Bernie Tomic did a double punch to give the green and gold a 2-0 lead on Friday.
Poland pulled within 1-2 winning the doubles point, but Tomic beat Lukasz Kubot to clinch the result and send the Aussies back to the main group.
Belgium d. Israel 3-2
One of the more exciting ties this weekend, Steve Darcis was the key for Belgium as he beat Dudi Sela on Thursday and Amir Weintraub in the 5th rubber to clinch the tie.
Ruben Bemelmans went 1-1 in singles for the Belgians, losing on Thursday to Weintraub but beating Dudi Sela in the 4th rubber. Erlich/Ram won the doubles point for Israel.
Japan d. Colombia 3-2
Go Soeda beat Alejandro Falla in 4 sets to clinch a comeback victory for Japan. Kei Nishikori beat both Fall and Santiago Giraldo, while Soeda lost to Giraldo on Friday and Cabal/Farah won the doubles point for Colombia. This was close but Japan had more fight this time.
Petra Pummeled by Alison Riske @USOpen, Czech Mate Stepanek Lends a Hand
Alison Riske Post-Match
First, congratulations to Pittsburgh native and current Maryland resident Alison Riske, who made short work of 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 6-0. Riske had only 7 unforced errors to Kvitova’s 27.
After the match, an exhausted Kvitova described laying in bed the day before the match with a fever and a virus.
I watched Kvitova arrive at and leave the grounds of the US Open yesterday and her body language indicated she wasn’t exaggerating.
She had a scowl on her face as she entered, probably due to pain or the thought of having to play a match in her condition.
As she departed, she had some difficulty walking and carrying her bag. Czech-mate and travel companion Radek Stepanek was a fine gentleman. He noticed that she was having trouble and promptly grabbed her bag and held her so she didn’t fall over. Afterward, he saw to it that she got in the SUV safely to escape the heat and return to a Manhattan hotel room.
Petra will have to try again in 2014 to win a US Open. In the meantime, Alison Riske is on to her first Sweet 16 in a slam. After surprising many at Wimbledon over the summer by reaching the 3rd round, yesterday wasn’t as big a shocker.
The shocking thing was that Steps seemed so gentle and kind, like a big brother, a departure from the tough-talking reputation that he has gained on the tour.
Defending Champ Petra Kvitova More Confident Ahead of US Open
Defending New Haven Open Petra Kvitova is headed to a fourth straight WTA quarterfinals appearance if she beats American Alison Riske this afternoon on Stadium Court. The press caught up with her on Monday about her chances at a repeat.
On New Haven: I feel like its more relaxed here. It’s a pretty familiar tournament for me.
On her game: “I still have spaces to improve.”
The 2011 Wimbledon champion is feeling good about her chances at the US Open, having made the quarters of the last three tournaments she entered and having won it all here in New Haven last year. Even so, the humidity challenges her.
“I’m pretty satisfied. After grass, for me, its always tough. I never like playing in America because of my asthma, but the last year I played quite well. It was a good year, so I know I can play well here. It gave me confidence to be like OK, I’m going to America and I can play good.”
“The asthma was a big problem, but with the medication, it’s better. I have an inhaler that I can use during the matches. It’s more about the humid. Humid is the worst for me.”
She not resting on her New Haven laurels, knowing that competition lurks around every corner.
“It’s nice to be defending champion, but every week is different. It’s a chance for everyone, so I’m not thinking like this.”
Czech Republic, Argentina, Serbia and Canada Roll into Davis Cup Semis
Czech Republic d. Kazahkstan 3-1
No Berdych, no problem for the Czech Republic, as Lukas Rosol and Jan Hajek led their team to a confident victory over Kazakhstan on the road. The Czechs won all 3 singles rubbers, including a pair of 4 set wins by Rosol over Andrey Golubev and Evgeny Korolev. Hajek won the 1st rubber over Mikhail Kukushkin but the Kazaks were able to extend the tie into Sunday by winning the saturday doubles rubber with Yuriy Schukin and Golubev over Radek Stepanek and Hajek. A dead 5th rubber was not played.
Argentina d. France 3-2
Argentina stepped up big to upset France with it all coming down to a 5th rubber. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got the French off to a good start with a win over Carlos Berlocq in 5 close sets, but Juan Monaco fired back with a straight sets win over a hobbled Gilles Simon. In the 3rd doubles rubber, David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos teamed up to take out Julian Benneteau and Michael Llodra (who produced some Google worthy antics of his own). On Sunday, Tsonga rolled over Monaco to keep the French in it, but it was Berlocq who would come up big clinching the tie over Gilles Simon in 4 sets.
Argentina will meet the defending champs the Czech Republic next round.
Serbia d. USA 3-1
The US DC team just didn’t have enough to beat Serbia this time. Novak Djokovic got a pair of wins, the first over John Isner and the latter a tie-clinching 4th rubber win over Sam Querrey. Against Querrey, Djokovic rolled on his ankle very early in the 1st set and was hobbled considerably throughout the match, but still dispatched a collapsing Querrey easily enough. Querrey did beat Viktor Troicki in 5 sets in the 2nd rubber.
The real key may well have been the doubles rubber as Nenad Zimonjic and the unheralded Illija Bozoljac toppled the Bryan Brothers 15-13 in the 5th set in a record setting US DC doubles match. A dead 5th rubber was not played.
Canada d. Italy 3-1
Canada rode their rocket Milos Raonic to the Davis Cup semis with Raonic winning both his singles rubbers, including the clinching 4th rubber over Andreas Seppi. This was preceded by a win over Fabio Fognini on Friday. Also coming up big were Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil who won the doubles rubber over Daniele Bracciali and Fognini 15-13 in the 5th. Pospisil fell to Seppi in 5 sets in the 1st rubber, Seppi coming back from 2 sets to love down.
In other action outside the world group, into the world group playoffs are Great Britain, who shocked Russia 3-2 and came back from 0-2 down after Friday singles. They needed a massive performance from futures level player Dan Evans, who has a noted history of showing up big in Davis Cup. Evans won the key 5th rubber after losing a 5 set 1st rubber against Dmitry Tursunov. James Ward also helped the comeback with a 5 set win over Dmitry Tursunov in the 4th rubber after losing his 1st singles match against Evgeny Donskoy in 5 sets.
Poland beat South Africa 3-1, while Ukraine had a bit of trouble against a pesky Swedish team but did manage to get the job done 3-2. The Netherlands also blanked Romania 5-0.
Japan beat Korea 3-2, Australia got past Uzbekistan 3-1, Colombia whitewashed Uruguay 5-0, and Ecuador toppled Chile 3-2. All those winning teams will also be in the playoffs against the various losing teams of the World Group 1st round.
As for the DC dream team of the week, Evans, Bozolijac, Nestor and Berlocq with Rosol and Raonic as alternates would make quite a formidable DC team.
The stars of men’s tennis, along with some of the lesser known players, will put on the national colors once again. The opening round of the Davis Cup begins its 2013 edition this weekend. Here is a preview of all the world group weekend action.
Canada vs. Spain
The defending finalists and normally DC dominant Spanish will have a much weaker armada and will have to head to Vancouver to take on a strong-looking Canuck team in a tie ripe for a surprise. The Spanish had Nicolas Almagro withdraw from the tie this week, replaced by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. He will be complemented by Marcel Granollers, Albert Ramos and doubles specialist Marc Lopez, with the M&M’s Granollers and Lopez forming the core of the doubles team.
The Canadians counter with AO quarterfinalist Milos Raonic (who was nursing a bit of an injury from AO but should be ready to go), Vasek Pospisil (who hasn’t played any since last year and withdrew from a couple of January events), Frank Dancevic, (who made the quarters of the competitive Heilbronn Challenger, an event also on indoor hard courts), and doubles specialist Daniel Nestor.
The Spanish still have the rankings advantage, but the Canadians get home court advantage and home surface advantage on indoor hard. Ramos is slumping, and Pospisil hasn’t played. Seriously, this tie could come down to the doubles rubber.
The Pick: Spain
Italy vs. Croatia
Italy gets home advantage on indoor clay in Turin as AO 4th rounder Andreas Seppi, along with Fabio Fognini, Paolo Lorenzi and Simone Bolelli, all top 80 players, will take on the Croats. Croatia is led by Marin Cilic and his teammates Ivan Dodig, Antonio Veic and Mate Pavic.
Italy will have not only home advantage, but also performance advantage as all of their players are solid consistent clay courters and Seppi just beat Cilic in Melbourne. Ivan Dodig may grab a rubber, but otherwise things don’t look good for Croatia, who have two players ranked outside the top 130 on their squad.
The Pick: Italy
Belgium vs. Serbia
This will be a tie worth watching as the young David Goffin and his teammates Steve Darcis, Ruben Bemelmans and the veteran Olivier Rochus have home court advantage on the red clay of Charleroi, Belgium. They will take on the dominant Novak Djokovic, and the solid Serbian supporting cast of Viktor Troicki and doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic. Janko Tipsarevic has withdrawn.
Rochus and Goffin also enjoy spending time on the golf course.
Belgium coach Johan Van Herck will have his work cut out for him as there are few weaknesses in this Serbian side and the Belgians may struggle to win a rubber in this tie. A big advantage goes to Serbia.
The Pick: Serbia
USA vs. Brazil
On indoor hard at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, the red, white and blue are lead by a hopefully fresh John Isner, Sam Querrey and the AO champion Bryan Brothers. Team USA will face a tough tie against the flamboyant Brazilians who are lead by top 35 player Thomaz Bellucci along with Thiago Alves and the doubles team of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, who are accomplished in their own right.
The Americans still look to have the advantage here, especially because of surface, assuming that Isner’s knee is ok. As long as they win the doubles rubber, Querrey and Isner should be counted on to grab the rubbers needed and advance the USA to the next round.
The Pick: USA
France vs. Israel
On indoor hard in Rouen, France, Les Bleus, headed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet along with Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra will take on Israel, led by the veteran Dudi Sela. Alongside him will be doubles specialists Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram. The other core of the Israeli team, Amir Weintraub, is dealing with a leg infection and may or may not play. His replacement would be an unranked player. This is a big blow to the Israeli team.
This is a very lopsided tie as the French are stacked with two top 20 and three top 40 singles players, while the Israelis don’t have either singles player ranked in the top 110. On a side note, the French are now coached by former pro Arnaud Clement.
The Pick: France
Argentina vs. Germany
In a rematch of last year’s DC tie, Argentina will look to advance on the home clay of the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires over Germany. The Argentines are lead by Juan Monaco along with Horacio Zeballos, Carlos Berlocq and the old DC grinder David Nalbandian. Germany counters with Phillip Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer, Tobias Kamke and doubles specialist Christopher Kas. Both sides have different squads compared to last year and the Argentines will most notably be missing Juan Martin Del Potro.
This tie could go either way, as Monaco is not in the greatest form and Nalbandian has not played since last August. Meanwhile, Berlocq and Zeballos will be adjusting to the change in surface.
Kohlschreiber is solid on all surfaces for Germany, while Mayer is usually competitive on clay and Kamke can be inconsistent. I have a feeling Germany will get revenge here.
The Pick: Germany
Austria vs. Kazakhstan
At the national tennis center in Astana on red clay, Kazakhstan will seek to advance to the next round of the DC world group with a team that consists of Mikhail Kukushkin, Andrey Golubev, Evgeny Korolev and Yuriy Schukin. Austria will counter with the reliable Jurgen Melzer, a struggling Andreas Haider-Maurer, Julian Knowle and doubles specialist Alexander Peya.
Both teams have reasonable shots to win this tie, as both are made up of basically challenger level players who have done better in the past, excluding the ATP level Melzer and Peya. It really comes down to which team is more motivated and shows up, but because the Kazaks have the home advantage, I will give them the slight edge.
The Pick: Kazakhstan
Switzerland vs. Czech Republic
The Swiss are lead by the now memorable Stan Wawrinka, with Marco Chiudinelli, Michael Lammer and Henri Laaksonen behind him. They’ll take on defending DC champs Czech Republic on indoor hard in Geneva.
The Czechs have the same core team of Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol back, while Radek Stepanek had to pull out with a back injury and has been replaced by Ivo Minar. Also returning are Jiri Vesely and coach Jaroslav Navratil. Though they are away from home for this tie they will still have a slight edge, Wawrinka aside, look for them to stay in the hunt to repeat.
The Pick: Czech Republic
Notable action outside of the World Group:
Asia/Oceania Group 1: The Aussies, led by Lleyton Hewitt and Matt Ebden, take on Taiwan on hard courts in Taiwan, while the Japanese, with Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito, get a home tie on hard against Indonesia.
Europe/Africa Group 1: Poland, with Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot will take on Grega Zemlja, Aljaz Bedene and marathon man Blaz Kavic of Slovenia in a tie worth checking out on hard courts in Wroclaw, Poland.
Ukraine will finally get the participation of Alexandr Dolgopolov, who seems to have finally resolved his dispute with the Ukrainian tennis federation. He teams up with Sergiy Stakhovsky, and they will take on Slovakia, lead by Martin Klizan and Lukas Lacko on hard courts at home.