Five things about the Davis Cup
This Easter weekend plays host to the Davis Cup quarter-finals and second round zonal ties. Here are five things to look out for…
All eyes on the Riviera
The most exciting tie of the weekend, without doubt, is the face-off between France and the USA at the Monte Carlo Country Club, fondly regarded as one of the most beautiful tennis locations in the world. Referred to in its proper location of ‘Roquebrune Cap Martin’ for perhaps the first and only time, both teams were hit by unexpected withdrawals earlier this week.
First, the American No 1 Mardy Fish pulled out with ‘extreme fatigue’ after an as yet unidentified health scare. And then, hot on his heels, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet also announce that they would not be available. The result means that impressive American youngster Ryan Harrison could have a chance to puff his chest out with good reason if he can cause an upset over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the French No 1. Tsonga, however, has lost just two rubbers in the 14 he has played for France. Gilles Simon will square up to John Isner in the second of Friday’s rubbers, with the Bryan brothers due to face Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra in the doubles.
On clay, at home, you’d have to fancy France. But, based on Isner’s recent purple patch of form, there is a sneaking suspicion that it could be 2-1 USA heading into Sunday.
Another clay-walk for Corretja?
Alex Corretja came through his first test as Davis Cup captain in spectacular fashion in a rather chilly Oviedo in February, as his Rafa Nadal and David Ferrer-less team whitewashed Kazakhstan. The defending champions are at home again, this time in the balmier climes of Castellon, but this time their opponents are a far tougher ask. Although Nadal remains absent, Ferrer is back, joined by Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
The most dangerous of their opposition is undoubtedly Jurgen Melzer, who takes on Almagro first, followed by Ferrer against Andreas Haider-Maurer. As always, in Davis Cup, it is likely to come down to the doubles. Still, the home side’s strength and depth should see them through.
Perhaps the most unpredictable of the weekend’s ties is the match-up between the Czech Republic and Serbia. Tomas Berdych and co are at home in Prague, on what is likely to be a quick indoor surface, against a Novak Djokovic-less Serbian side.
Berdych starts against the mercurial Viktor Troicki, who still seems not to have recovered from squandering his two-set lead against an injured Andy Murray at Roland Garros last year. Janko Tipsarevic will try to redress the balance for Serbia when he takes on the ageing, yet in form, Radek Stepanek, before Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Rosol contest the doubles for the home side against Illija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic. Putting it bluntly, the tie will completely come down to what moods Tipsarevic and Troicki are in. It will either be a breeze for the Czechs, or a nail biter.
Back in Buenos Aires
The fourth and final of the World Group quarter-finals sees Argentina, three times a finalist and never a champion, take on Croatia. The home side will be at full strength, with Juan Martin Del Potro, Juan Monaco, in good nick, David Nalbandian, also in good nick, and Eduardo Schwank holding up the blue and white flag. But Croatia have two giant figures in their camp two, Marin Cilic, not so much in form on the tour, but still performing in Davis Cup, and Ivo Karlovic, who almost single-handedly won the first-round tie for them against Japan.
Again, the home side would seem to have the advantage, but you can almost certainly rely on Cilic and Karlovic to make life tricky at times.
What about the Brits?
The British Davis Cup team is back on the banks of the river Clyde for the fourth tie in a row, as Leon Smith’s team aim to maintain their winning streak at the Braehead Arena. But the task ahead of them is a tough one. Belgium, the opposition, have two strong singles players in Olivier Rochus and Steve Darcis, and an up and comer in David Goffin, who has just won a Challenger title in Guadeloupe and is sitting just outside the top 100.
GB, by contrast, are without not only Andy Murray, but also British No 2 James Ward, who suffered the misfortune of a back spasm on Wednesday. So it is up to Josh Goodall, who faces Darcis to start, and Dan Evans, who takes on Rochus, plus the increasingly impressive doubles pairing of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins, to mount the British charge.
Good luck to all.
Keep track of all this weekend’s action on DavisCup.com