Davis Cup World Group Semis and World Group Playoffs Preview
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
There are no ATP level events this week but the Davis Cup will take center stage this weekend with two World Group semis and eight World Group playoffs taking place across the world. Here is a preview of all the exciting, patriotic action. Tennis East Coast is proud to announce on-site coverage of Davis Cup, but not from where you’d expect. An intrepid reporter is on her way to an undisclosed location for coverage of Europe/Africa World Group II action.
World Group Semis:
Spain vs. USA
Defending Davis Cup champions Spain will be the favorites when they take on the Yanks on the red clay of Gijon, Spain. Lead by US Open semifinalist David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Marcel Granollers along with doubles specialist Marc Lopez, they play their best on clay and are coached by Alex Corretja. They will take on the American team of John Isner, Sam Querrey and US Open champion Bryan Brothers, and are coached by Jim Courier.
The USA was able to upset France on clay months ago, but given the form of Ferrer and the expected consistency of Almagro and Granollers, the Spanish, who handled Austria in the DC quarters, have a good chance of even blanking the Americans and winning all the rubbers (except maybe the doubles as the Bryans always rise to the occasion). Furthermore, the Americans will likely have a harder time adjusting surfaces after the US Open and will be at a disadvantage in this respect.
The Pick: Spain
Argentina vs. Czech Republic
Argentina, led by Juan Martin Del Potro and Juan Monaco along with Carlos Berlocq and Eduardo Schwank, will look to repeat as DC finalists and defend the clay of Buenos Aires against a Czech invasion. The Czechs beat Serbia in the DC quarters and will send a team consisting of US Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Lukas Rosol and Ivo Minar. They are coached by Jaroslav Navratil.
The Argentines, who beat Croatia in the DC quarters and are coached by Martin Jaite, will be solid favorites as Monaco and Berlocq are playing well and are better on clay than Stepanek and Rosol. Both Schwank, who replaces an injured David Nalbandian, and Minar spend most of their playing time at the challenger level. I could see Berdych notching a win over Del Potro and possibly a doubles rubber win, but the Argentines are simply deeper and more consistent going into this tie.
The Pick: Argentina
This would mean that the DC final would be a repeat of last year’s should both teams get the job done as they are favored to do.
World Group Playoffs:
On the other end of the spectrum, 16 teams will battle it out for 8 spots in next year’s DC World Group.
The neighboring central Asian nations will battle for bragging rights in addition to a spot in the World Group. Kazakhstan is the host on clay and is led by Mikhail Kukushkin along with Andrey Golubev, Evgeny Korolev and Yuriy Schukin. Uzbekistan will counter with Denis Istomin, Farrukh Dustov, Murad Inoyatov and Sarvar Ikramov.
Kazakhstan, as hosts and with higher ranked players will be the favorites, but if Uzbekistan lead by Istomin can grab a couple of rubbers and then the doubles they could very well snatch the tie.
The Pick: Kazakhstan
Germany vs. Australia
The Germans, led by Florian Mayer, Benjamin Becker, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and Phillip Petzschner will look to remain in the World Group as they take on the green and gold led by young guns Bernard Tomic and Matt Ebden along with legendary veteran Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione on the clay of Hamburg.
Germany will be the favorites on clay and this tie is very interesting as both Mayer and Tomic come off bad early losses at the US Open. Hewitt and Petzschner, however, acquitted themselves well but will have to make a quick change of surface. If this tie was on hard court, the advantage would go the Aussies, but Mayer should be able to earn a win along with Becker, Stebe or Petzschner. Also, the Germans probably have an edge in the doubles. This tie will be close.
The Pick: Germany
Japan vs. Israel
Japan will battle Israel in Tokyo for the right to remain in the World Group and will be aided by Kei Nishikori along with top 70 players Go Soeda, Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita, all of whom excel on the hard courts. Israel will counter with veteran Dudi Sela and challenger level player Amir Weintraub along with the doubles specialist team of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich.
The Japanese will be heavy favorites in this tie as all three of their singles players are leaps and bounds above the Israeli players. Even so, Israel may snatch the doubles rubber.
The Pick: Japan
Belgium vs. Sweden
The Belgians, led by David Goffin and Steve Darcis along with veteran Olivier Rochus and the rising Ruben Bemelmans will play on the clay of Brussels against a weakened Swedish team of Michael Ryderstedt, Markus Eriksson and doubles specialists Robert Lindstedt and Johan Brunstrom.
Belgium should have no trouble in this tie as all four of their players rank far above the Swedish players in singles. Though the Swedes may have the advantage in doubles, look for Belgium to cruise.
The Pick: Belgium
Canada vs. South Africa
Canada, led by Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, Frank Dancevic and doubles specialist Daniel Nestor seeks to stay in the World Group as they take on South Africa, led by Izak Van Der Merwe, Rik De Voest, Raaven Klaasen and Nikala Scholtz.
Canada will be the heavy favorites on the hard courts of Montreal, as all of their players are talent and ranking wise well above what the South Africans bring to the table. This should be a 5-0 romp.
The Pick: Canada
Italy vs. Chile
The Italians are led by Andreas Seppi, Fabio Fognini, Simone Bolleli and doubles specialist Daniele Bracciali and will be heavy favorites on the clay of Naples against the Chileans led by Paul Capdeville, Jorge Aguilar, Guillermo Hormazabal and Christian Garin.
Although Seppi suffered a bad loss at a challenger this week and is struggling, Capdeville is the only player of note on Chile’s team that has played much at all at the ATP level and the Italians should remain in the World Group and roll in this tie.
The Pick: Italy
Netherlands vs. Switzerland
The Dutch are led by Robin Haase, Igor Sijsling, Thiemo DeBakker and doubles specialist Jean-Julien Rojer. They will seek to make the World Group at home on the clay of Amsterdam against the Swiss team of Roger Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka, Marco Chiudinelli and Henri Laaksonen.
This is a very intriguing tie, as Federer and Wawrinka should be able to carry the Swiss. They both did well at the US Open but will be adjusting surfaces, while the lower ranked Dutch are more well-rounded but would need to get a serious upset in at least one of the singles rubbers and win the doubles to triumph.
The Pick: Switzerland
Brazil vs. Russia
Brazil is at home on clay and led by Thomaz Bellucci, Rogerio Dutra Silva and doubles specialists Bruno Soares and Marcel Melo. They will look to kick Russia out of the World Group. Russia will counter with Alex Bogomolov, Igor Andreev, Evgeny Donskoy and Andrey Kuznetsov.
This is another intriguing tie. It leans the Brazilians way as they have a reliable doubles team and are at home. If Bellucci can do his job and get a couple of singles rubber wins over the struggling Bogomolov and Andreev, Brazil should advance. Donskoy and Kuznetsov are talented players on clay, though most of their time has been spent on the challenger circuit.
The Pick: Brazil
And there you have it, the primer for all the Davis Cup action this weekend. It should be fun and a great follow-up to the US Open.