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.
Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals Preview
The next round of this year’s Davis Cup action kicks off tomorrow with a set of interesting and entertaining matchups on tap.
Canada vs. Italy
Canada has yet another chance to grab a big upset at home in Vancouver on indoor hard courts as Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, doubles specialist Daniel Nestor and Jesse Levine (in his first DC tie for Canada) will take on Andreas Seppi , Fabio Fognini, Daniele Bracciali and Paolo Lorenzi. The Italians would certainly prefer clay though Seppi and Fognini are at least average to above average on hard courts. This tie will come down to Raonic getting the job done in both of his rubbers and then the Canadians either winning the doubles rubber or one of the other two singles rubbers. Pospisil is playing well and Levine should be motivated to play DC. With that being said, it may well be 3-2 but the Maple Leafs should win it.
The pick: Canada
USA vs. Serbia
The USA has an equal or better team on paper with Quisner and the Bryan Brothers at home on indoor hard courts in far-flung Boise, but Serbia, who doesn’t have Janko Tipsarevic, has Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki, doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic and Illija Bozoljac, who is ranked outside the top 330.
The problem is Isner can’t seem to beat anyone right now even on surfaces he likes and Querrey isn’t that exceptional right now either (though did upset Djokovic indoors last year in Paris). The Bryans are reliable but they only count for one rubber. Djokovic, on the other hand, you have to assume would be good for winning both his rubbers and with that the Serbs just have to win one of the other two singles rubbers. I’ll go with the Serbs in a close rubber.
The pick: Serbia
Argentina vs. France
Argentina has never beaten France in Davis Cup (0-5) and they may well continue that losing streak in this tie even though they are at home on clay in Buenos Aires.
The French have a strong team of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Julian Benneteau and Gilles Simon along with doubles specialist Michael Llodra. The Argentines have the struggling Juan Monaco, the up and down Horacio Zeballos and Carlos Berlocq and the possibly rusty David Nalbandian. On paper, this tie should be quite close but given the form of the Argentine team the French should be able to win this with a rubber to spare.
The pick: France
Kazakhstan vs. Czech Republic
The Kazaks have their full team at home on indoor clay in Astana, with Mikhail Kukushkin, Evgeny Korolev, Andrey Golubev and Yuriy Schukin. The Czechs are severely weakened as a team because national #1 Tomas Berdych won’t be participating in this tie. Instead, they have Radek Stepanek, Lukas Rosol, Jan Hajek and Ivo Minar.
Kazakhstan did well to upset in Austria in the previous round and their players all performed well above their ATP ranking while the Czechs may well find themselves in some early trouble given that their top ranked player Stepanek isn’t planning to play singles, but only the doubles rubber. Rosol and Hajek aren’t bad players but they are inconsistent and at least for Rosol, clay is not his favorite surface. I will go with the upset and say the Kazaks get through this one.
The pick: Kazakhstan
In other action outside the World Group: In Asia-Oceania group 1, Denis Istomin and Uzbekistan will take on Bernard Tomic, Marinko Matosevic and Australia at home on indoor clay. The Aussies have a superior team on paper but clay is not their strength. Korea will also take on Japan, which is led by Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito in that group.
In Americas Group 1: An interesting Chilean team featuring the youngster Christian Garin and the veteran Paul Capdeville will take on Julio-Cesar Campozano and Ecuador, who will have the home hard court advantage. Alejandro Falla, Santiago Giraldo and Colombia will take on a weak Uruguay team that doesn’t have a player ranked in the top 550 at home on hard courts.
In Europe/Africa Group 1: James Ward, Colin Fleming, and Great Britain will host Dmitry Tursunov, Evgeny Donskoy and the rest of the Russian team in a tie where they will be serious underdogs.
The Polish team led by Jerzy Janowicz and the doubles specialists Matkowski and Fyrstenberg will take on a very weak South African team that has Rik De Voest and no one else ranked inside the top 500. With the withdraw of South African player Raaven Klaasen from the tie, their captain, 40 year old John Laffnie De Jager, who last played Davis Cup in 2002, stepped up and nominated himself for the tie. He probably won’t play any rubbers.
Romania will host the Netherlands on home hardcourts and their team features Victor Hanescu and doubles specialist Horia Tecau. The probable favorites are the Dutch, who counter with their top two, Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling.
And in the last Euro Group tie Alex Dolgopolov, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Ukraine will take on an inexperienced Swedish team that has doubles specialists Brunstrom and Lindstedt but no singles players ranked in the top 640.
BARBADOS’ DARIAN KING BEATS HOMETOWN FAVORITE PRAKASH AMRITRAJ @CALABASASTENNIS
CALABASAS, Calif., (March 12, 2013) – Down 4-2 after splitting sets with former USC All-American and hometown favorite Prakash Amritraj, Darian King knew he had to change his game-plan and start playing more aggressively.
That’s exactly what the 20-year-old Barbados Davis Cup player did as he held his serve, broke the 29-year-old Amritraj, and then won another service game at love to record a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory and a spot in the second round of the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas, a $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event, played on Tuesday at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center.
“I just kept my intensity up but knew I had to play better,” King said after the match. “I practiced with Prakash all last week so we know each other’s game.”
King said he loved playing in “his kind of weather” on a gorgeous 78-degree Southern California day. A year and a half ago, King advanced to the Claremont $10,000 Pro Circuit final losing to Steve Johnson in the final. “I just love it here,” said King, who was watched by his coach Roger Smith on Tuesday. “I’m still training in Florida with Martin Blackman, but when I’m out here it’s great to have Roger working with me.”
King is the No. 1 Davis Cup player for a country that is one-fourth the size of Ventura County where the tournament is taking place. “We have about 200,000 people there,” said King, whose country will next play Puerto Rico in a Group II Americas Relegation Playoff and is currently ranked No. 64 in the world Davis Cup standings. “It does feel good to be the No. 1 player from somewhere though.”
On Wednesday night, former world No. 9 player Nicolas Massu of Chile will take on Matheson Klein of Australia not before 6:30 p.m., in his first-round match. Now 33-years-old, Massu made it all the way to No. 9 in the world rankings during his successful career and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
In 2004, Massu became the only male player to win both the singles and doubles gold medals during the same Olympic Games. Massu also reached the final of the 2003 Madrid Masters and won six ATP singles titles.
“I can’t recall a Top 10 player ever coming back to play at this level ($15,000),” said longtime USTA Pro Circuit Tour Supervisor Pete Kasavage.
In a well-played doubles match pitting two current UCLA players against a former Bruin, Marcos Giron and Dennis Novikov defeated Daniel Kosakowski and former NCAA singles champion from Stanford Bradley Klahn, 6-4, 6-4.
Admission is free to the general public until Friday. Beginning then through the finals on Sunday, tickets will be $10 for adults and kids under 14-and-under free.
Community events include:
· Adult pro-am drill Friday, March 15, from 9 to 11 a.m.
· Community Tennis Association & USTA League appreciation night on Friday, March 15, starting at 6 p.m.
· Kids’ Day with a Tennis Carnival will take place Saturday, March 16, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Check the tournament’s Twitter feed @calabasastennis. Check the tournament website for draws and scores at the official website, http://www.calabasasprotennis.com.
Tuesday’s Singles Results
Takanyi Garanganga (ZIM) def. Joshua Milton (GBR) , 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (1)
Darian King (BAR) def. Prakash Amritraj (IND), 6-4, 2-6, 7-5
Yong-Kyu Lim (KOR) def. Cristobal Saavedra-Corvalan (CHI), 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
Sanam Singh (IND)  def. Ji Sung Nam (KOR), 6-4, 6-3
Tuesday’s Doubles Results
Bjorn Fratangelo (U.S.) / Mitchell Krueger (U.S.) def. Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) / Michael Venus (NZL), 7-6 (6), 6-4
Kevin King (U.S.) / Dennis Nevolo (U.S.) def. Joshua Milton (GBR) / Andrew Whittington (AUS), 6-4, 6-4
Yong-Kyu Lim (KOR)  / Ji Sung Nam (KOR) def. Takanyi Garanganga (ZIM) / Alexios Halebian (U.S.), 6-0, 6-7 (7), 10-7
Saketh Myneni (IND) / Sanam Singh (IND) def. Carsten Ball (AUS) / Tennys Sandgren (U.S.) , 6-2, 6-0
Marcos Giron (U.S.) / Dennis Novikov (U.S.) def. Bradley Klahn (U.S.) / Daniel Kosakowski (U.S.), 6-4, 6-4
Hans Podlipnik-Castillo (CHI)  / Cristobal Saavedra-Corvalan (CHI) def. Alan Chang (U.S.) / Andy Chang (U.S.), 6-4, 6-3
Marek Michalicka (CZE) / Alexander Satschko (GER)  def. Keith-Patrick Crowley (RSA) / Matheson Klein (AUS), 6-2, 6-4
Sekou Bangoura (USA) / Nicolas Meister (USA) def. Mauricio Astorga (MEX) / Juan Carlos Saez (CHI), 6-4, 6-3
Davis Cup Recap: Raonic, Querrey, Berdych Shine
Canada d. Spain 3-2
Milos Raonic led Canada into its first Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinal with an opening rubber win over Albert Ramos in 4 and a tie clinching 4th rubber win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in straights. Frank Dancevic also won the 2nd rubber over Marcel Granollers in dominant straight sets fashion and in the dead 5th rubber Ramos beat Dancevic. Granollers and Marc Lopez had kept the tie alive with a doubles rubber win over Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in 5 sets.
The Spanish lost their first opening round DC WG tie since 2006 and as previously mentioned, Canada is proud of having reached their first WG Quarterfinal. They dominated the proceedings with home support and the indoor hard court surface.
Italy d. Croatia 3-2
In one of two DC WG matches that featured a live 5th rubber, Italy triumphed over Croatia. Marin Cilic got Croatia off to a solid start with a 5 set win over a tenacious Paolo Lorenzi, but Andreas Seppi countered with a win over Ivan Dodig in 4.
In the doubles rubber, Simone Bolleli and Fabio Fognini beat Cilic and Dodig. Later, Cilic came back to beat Seppi in straights to keep the tie alive.
Fabio Fognini would then clinch it for the Italians, winning 4 sets over a fatigued Dodig and sending the boys in blue and green into the next round where they will face Canada.
Serbia d. Belgium 3-2
Viktor Troicki and Novak Djokovic got the job done for Serbia, which won the first three rubbers, including the doubles to clinch the tie. Troicki came back from a listless 2 sets down in the opening rubber to win in 5 sets over David Goffin 1-6 3-6 7-6 6-4 6-4 before Djokovic rolled over Olli Rochus in straights. Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic beat Steve Darcis and Ruben Bemelmans in the doubles rubber in 4 sets to seal the result.
In the dead rubbers, Goffin won in 3 sets over Serbian backup player Boris Pashanski and the accomplished doubles player Zimonjic played a tournament singles match for the first time in about 5 years. He fell to Steve Darcis in straights.
This result was expected, but credit to Troicki for the comeback. The Serbs will face the USA in the next round.
USA d. Brazil 3-2
The United States struggled but got the win over Brazil in a sparsely attended tie. Sam Querrey started things off right with a straight sets win over Thomaz Bellucci and John Isner gave the US a 2-0 lead heading into Saturday with a straight sets win over Thiago Alves. Then Brazil began to fight back, with Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares upsetting the usually dependable Bryan brothers and Thomaz Bellucci grabbing a 4th rubber win over John Isner in 5 sets. Sam Querrey would shut the door though, beating Alves in 4 and getting the US to the next round.
Isner seems to be slumping and is still not 100%. That is one thing we can take from this tie. He was frustrated after yet another 5 set loss.
France d. Israel 5-0
France walloped Israel as expected: with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga winning in 4 sets over Amir Weintraub, Richard Gasquet winning in straights over Dudi Sela and Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra clinching the tie with an easy doubles win over Jonathan Erlich and Sela.
In the dead rubbers, Llodra beat retired Israeli player Noam Okun in straights and Gasquet beat Weintraub.
Argentina d. Germany 5-0
Argentina pulled off the surprise of the weekend in whitewashing Germany. Carlos Berlocq got the momentum started with a 5 set win, by retirement, against Phillip Kohlschreiber. Kohlschreiber went down with a leg injury at the end of the 5th set. That was followed up by Juan Monaco beating Florian Mayer in 4 and David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos winning the doubles over Tobias Kamke and Christopher Kas in 4.
In the dead rubbers, Monaco beat Kamke in straights and Berlocq beat the doubles specialist Kas in the same fashion.
Mayer withdrew from playing the 5th rubber because of a virus. Berlocq will be pumped up from carrying his team and they will face France in the next round.
Kazakhstan d. Austria 3-1
The Kazakhs led by Andrey Golubev beat a disappointing Austrian team. Golubev beat Andreas Haider-Maurer in the opening rubber and Evgeny Korolev upset Jurgen Melzer both in straight sets to give Kazakstan a 2-0 lead heading into Saturday.
Alexander Peya and Julian Knowle kept the tie alive for Austria by winning the doubles over Golubev and Yuriy Schukin, but Golubev came back and upset Melzer again on Sunday in 4 sets to clinch the tie. Both sides mutually agreed to not play a 5th rubber, so the tie ended 3-1.
Czech Republic d. Switzerland 3-2
The Czech Republic kept their DC repeat hopes alive in thrilling weekend fashion with a tight victory over the Swiss. Stan Wawrinka got the Swiss off to a good start with a straight sets win over Lukas Rosol, but Tomas Berdych countered with a 4 set win over Henri Laaksonen. The doubles rubber was the key though, as Berdych and Rosol won the longest DC doubles match in history 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-7 24-22 over Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli. The match went over 7 hours and Wawrinka/Chiudinelli saved a dozen match points before eventually losing. It was purely epic for a doubles match and the second longest in tennis history.
The next day, Berdych clinched the tie with a 4 set win over Wawrinka and in the dead rubber Laaksonen beat Jiri Vesely in 3. Berdych is close to becoming a DC legend after another outstanding performance for his country. Next up is Kazakhstan.
In other DC action outside the world group, Australia powered by Lleyton Hewitt and Matt Ebden won 5-0 over Taiwan and will face Uzbekistan in the next round. Also, South Korea beat India and will face Japan in Asia/Oceania group 1.
In Europe/Africa group 1, Poland led by Jerzy Janowicz won 3-2 over Slovenia (with a dead 5th rubber) and will face South Africa. Meanwhile, Alexandr Dolgopolov helped Ukraine to a 3-2 over Slovakia, though it was Ilya Marchenko that came in to clinch the tie with a 5th rubber win. Ukraine gets Sweden in the next round. Romania also advanced easily and will play the Netherlands.
In one other notable result from Europe/Africa group 2, Finland shocked Grigor Dimitrov and Bulgaria 3-2. Big wins by Harri Heliovaara and Micke Kontinen, a couple of lesser-known players.
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
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.
Have fun enjoying all the national action!
Stepanek, Czechs capture the 100th Davis Cup in Prague
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
The Czech Republic beat the defending champs Spain 3-2 at home in rowdy Prague to capture the 100th Davis Cup and their first Davis Cup title as an independent nation. They won in 1980 as part of Czechoslovakia and were led by Ivan Lendl at the time.
Captain Jaroslav Navratil relied on twin ligers Tomas Berdych and the tie clinching Radek Stepanek the whole way. Stepanek suffered an opening rubber loss to David Ferrer, but Berdych bounced to beat Nicolas Almagro in 5 and then Berdych and Stepanek combined to beat Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers in the doubles rubber. Ferrer won the 4thrubber over Berdych, giving him a perfect 2-0 record in the tie, but it was not enough as veteran player Radek Stepanek became the hero, closing out Nicolas Almagro in 4 sets with near perfect play. Steps was hitting target shots and rocket serves.
In addition to dethroning the Spanish Armada for the year, the Czech Republic got a perfect triple this year in winning the Hopman and Fed cups.
Davis Cup: Fan Girl Goes to Latvia
Courtney Jade, Special to TennisEastCoast.com
I landed in Latvia a couple of days ahead of the Davis Cup tie with Ukraine.
If you ever find yourself in Riga, the capital of this Baltic nation sandwiched between Estonia and Lithuania, you owe it to yourself to walk through Old Town. Old Town is very beautiful and there are plenty of little shops and places to eat well. I’d recommend Lido.
Prices in Latvia are generally pretty cheap, so it’s not a bad place to visit if you are on a budget. A lot of young people speak English, so I rarely had trouble communicating with the locals. However, many of the local bus drivers do not speak English. Transportation is easy to find. If you don’t feel like walking, you can easily hop on a bus or trolley. Taxis are also around but will obviously cost more, and some of the drivers like to up the price on you.
The Davis Cup tie between Latvia and Ukraine was held inside the Olympic Center in Liepaja. Liepaja is located four hours from Riga, accessible only by bus and rail. Once I arrived in Liepaja, I settled into the Europa City Amrita Hotel. The rooms of the hotel were smaller than what you’d find in the States, but were very clean and cozy. The hotel was a five-minute walk to the Olympic Center.
When you walk into the Olympic Center, they have a little shop on the right that sells name brand athletic clothes and accessories. On the left sits the very popular little cafeteria dining area. You dine in cramped quarters, so don’t be surprised to sit down at a table next to your favorite tennis player!
Tennis isn’t a popular sport in Latvia. It is easily overshadowed by sports like hockey and basketball. However, it has gained popularity with the rise of Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis was the first in his country to break through the top 100. The hockey team in Latvia, Dinamo Riga, is known for having some of the best crowd support in the KHL. Luckily for us, some of the hockey fan club was in the stands for Gulbis’ first match against Sergi Bubka. The fan club brought flags, drums, and their enthusiastic leader to pump up the crowd and support their country! Latvian hockey stars Rodrigo Lavins and Grits Anktipans were also in attendance.
Want to cheer in Latvian? Yell “Sarauj!” (Sa-Row) which means “Let’s go!”
This year Latvia gained a new captain, Karlis Lejnieks. Lejnieks, 24, retired from competitive tennis due to persistent knee problems and turned to coaching. I spoke to him about the new Davis Cup role.
” As I heard, they had disagreements with the previous captain and I am a good friend and practicing a lot with Ernests, and he is team leader in general. He asked me if I’d be interested. I said sure, of course! It’s a great opportunity to do more in Latvian tennis.”
Aside from Davis Cup Captain, Lejnieks is also coaching Israel’s Shahar Peer.
Unfortunately for Lejnieks and Team Latvia, the Ukrainian team came out on top at the end of the weekend. Gulbis was able to win both his singles matches, but the doubles loss with Andis Juska proved to be too damaging.
I had a fun week in Latvia. If you get the chance to explore this small country, take it!
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.
Davis Cup Weekend Recap
By Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Spain d. Austria 4-1
The Spanish Armada started off hot and finished strong, crushing the men in red with Nicolas Almagro notching a straight sets win over Austrian workhorse Jurgen Melzer and David Ferrer also taking out Austrian no. 2 Andreas Haider-Maurer in straights on Friday.
The Austrians only victory in the tie was in the doubles rubber where Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya were able to beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in 4 long sets. Any semblance of hope for the Austrians after the doubles win on Saturday was quickly erased by David Ferrer though, who beat Melzer in straights, followed by Almagro beating Peya in the dead rubber, and the Spanish cruise in the semis where they will face the USA at home.
USA d. France 3-2
John Isner carried the weekend for the US, taking out Gilles Simon in 3 sets on Friday and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 4 sets today to clinch the tie for the US. The Bryans also came up big for the US, winning the doubles rubber over Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra in straights on Saturday. The only weak link for the Americans was fill in Ryan Harrison, who lost both his matches, first to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who temporarily put the French up 1-0 early on in the tie on Friday, and later to Gilles Simon in the dead 5th rubber today.
It’s another big clay court and Davis Cup win for Isner, who is back in the top 10 again and will certainly be counted on to lead the US against Spain in the semis, which will most certainly be on clay as well. With the way Isner is playing right now, he is being mentioned by many as a possible French Open dark horse as well. It’s another Davis Cup disappointment for the French, though, who lost at home on their preferred surface in what was the final tie for their retiring captain Guy Forget. Jo Wilfried-Tsonga, who is back in the top 5 now, also heads into the Monte Carlo masters in a week disappointed.
Czech Republic d. Serbia 4-1
The Czechs took out the Serbians in Prague with victories by Tomas Berdych over a slumping Viktor Troicki in straights on Friday, a doubles victory by Berdych and Radek Stepanek on Saturday and a tie clinching victory by Berdych over Serbian no. 1 Janko Tipsarevic In straights today. Lukas Rosol beat Troicki today in straights in the dead rubber as well. This tie also got a lot of attention for what happened on Friday between Radek Stepanek and Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic evened up the tie for a time beating Stepanek in a thrilling 5 sets 5-7 6-4 6-4 4-6 9-7, but it was a very cut throat match and at the end of Tipsarevic and Stepanek looked like they were going to have a physical altercation after an angry Stepanek flipped Tipsarevic the bird and called him a derogatory name. The drama continued into the pressers but it appears things have been sorted out between to the two guys and luckily (or unluckily depending on your disposition) no physical fighting occurred. The Czechs move on to face Argentina in the semis.
Argentina d. Croatia 4-1
The Argentines recovered from an opening rubber loss by the traditional Davis Cup top performer David Nalbandian to Croatian no. 1 Marin Cilic in a 5+ hours, 5 set, 200+ unforced errors match to beat the Croatians in Buenos Aires. Juan Martin Del Potro notched a straight sets win over fellow hard serving big man Ivo Karlovic in the other match on Friday, while Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank won the doubles rubber in 5 sets over Cilic and Karlovic. Del Potro closed out the tie for Argentina, beating Cilic in straights while Juan Monaco won the dead rubber over Antonio Vecic with ease.
It was a couple of huge wins for Del Potro to carry his team through, even though he was suffering from severe allergy symptoms on Friday and their were questions as to whether he would be able to play. The Argentines will face the Czechs at home in what is sure to be a blockbuster semi final match up.
In other Davis Cup ties over the weekend, Uzbekistan led by Dennis Istomin beat India 3-2 (winning all the live rubbers but losing the final 2 dead rubbers), Australia, led by Delray finalist Marinko Matosevic and Bernard Tomic swept South Korea 5-0. Israel, led by Dudi Sela, beat Portugal 3-2, a talented Belgium beat a weakened Great Britain 4-1, the Netherlands led by Robin Haase swept Romania who suffered from a player boycott due to the dismissal of former captain Andrei Pavel (you can read more about it here) 5-0 and South Africa beat Blaz Kavic and Slovenia 4-1. All the winning squads mentioned above, in addition to either Chile or Uruguay and Brazil or Colombia (ties which still have live rubbers to play today) will move onto the world group playoffs for a spot in next years Davis Cup world group.
Davis Cup World Group QFs Preview
By Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
The 2nd round of Davis Cup rubbers begins April 6th and here is a preview of the World Group quarterfinal matches to whet everyone’s appetite.
Austria vs. Spain
The top ranked Spanish host the Austrians on the red clay of Castellon, Spain. With a not quite top tier but still highly ranked squad of David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, they should be heavily favored against the Austrian squad that features only one top 100 player, Jurgen Melzer, who is joined by Austrian veterans Andreas Haider-Maurer, Alexander Peya and Oliver Marach, who will form part of the doubles team Austrian coach Clemens Trimmel will put up.
The Spanish singles duo of Ferrer and Almagro are both coming off deep runs on the hard courts of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and should be in top form on what is their preferred surface while Marc Lopez, the brother of the more well known Feliciano Lopez, is a formidable doubles partner for whoever coach Alex Corretja pairs with him.
The Austrians upset the Russians in the last round and surprised many by reaching the Davis Cup QFs, but the odds of them advancing beyond this point on clay no less is are very steep with a squad of players who mostly ply their trade on the Challenger tour. The Spanish, who crushed Kazakhstan in the 1st round, should be favored to advance even if Melzer is able to win a couple rubbers for the boys in red.
The Pick: Spain
France vs. United States
The most anticipated Davis Cup tie of the quarterfinal round (at least here in the States) is this matchup between the traditionally strong French, who advanced over Canada in the 1st round and the newly resurgent US, who beat Roger Federer and the Swiss in the 1st round to the surprise of many. The tie will be played at the Monte Carlo Country Club, which also hosts the ATP Monte Carlo Masters tournament and once again will be on red clay, not exactly the Americans favorite surface even though they beat the Swiss on it.
The Americans, led by captain Jim Courier will send the team of John Isner, Ryan Harrison (who replaced Mardy Fish who withdrew from the tie) and the Bryan brothers, while for their part the French led by captain Guy Forget will send the squad of Gilles Simon (who replaced Gael Monfils who withdrew from the tie), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.
The French squad features two current top 15 singles players (Tsonga and Simon) while the Americans will have the advantage of both Bryan brothers being available for the doubles. Isner is pretty hot going into this tie, all be it on hard courts, and considering the parity of the talent it may just come down to which American and which French squad shows up. It should be a thrilling tie either way and how the less heralded play of Benneteau, Llodra and Harrison could determine who wins it. Simon is historically a better player on clay than Harrison is so that could swing the tie in favor of the French.
The Pick: France
Czech Republic vs. Serbia
In one of the closest ties in terms of both geographic location and parity of squads, the Czech Republic will face off with Serbia on clay in Prague. While the Serbs will once again be without the services of world no. 1 Novak Djokovic, they can still rely on ATP stalwarts Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki along with Dusan Lajovic and doubles specialist Nenad Zimonijic. The Czechs will counter with Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Lukas Rosol and doubles specialist Frantisek Cermak.
Both sides feature players who are playing very well at the moment and normally do well on clay so parsing these teams apart is very hard after both advanced with ease over Italy and Sweden respectively in the 1st round. It very well could come down to doubles rubber and how well the semi-consistent Lukas Rosol and Radek Stepanek can perform for the Czechs. Tipsarevic and Berdych also figure to be key performers for their perspective squads.
The Pick: Serbia
Croatia vs. Argentina
Argentina led by Juan Martin Del Potro, David Nalbanian, Juan “Pico” Monaco and Eduardo Schwank will try and defend home turf on the clay of Buenos Aires against the Croats who will counter with Ivo Karlovic, Marin Cilic, Antonio Veic and Lovro Zovko in what promises to be an interesting tie.
Argentina pulled off a mild upset of Phillip Kohlschreiber less Germany in the 1st round and Croatia triumphed over Kei Nishikori and Japan in a thrilling 5 rubber tie that went all the way.
With both Del Po and Pico coming off good performances in Miami including Del Potro’s victory over Cilic the Argentines should be favored over the Croats. Except a lot of aces in these rubbers even on clay with hard servers Karlovic, Cilic and Del Potro all taking part.
The Pick: Argentina
In other notable ties, Chile takes on Uruguay and Brazil takes on Colombia in Americas Group 1 2nd round action, India takes on Uzbekistan and Australia takes on South Korea in Asia/Oceania 2nd round action and Europe/Africa 2nd round ties are Israel vs. Portugal, Belgium vs. Great Britain, Netherlands vs. Romania and Slovenia vs. South Africa.