Draws for the just-released Davis Cup qualifying round to be held Sept. 21-23, with the winners advancing into the World group for 2008, and the losers into the dregs of zonal play:
Australia at Serbia
Ouch. Aussie tennis has been sliding for years, now things will really come to a head when the Serbs put Lleyton Hewitt (if he’s even healthy then) and the not-ready-for-prime-time Chris Guccione or Mark Philippoussis on clay. Rising star Novak Djokovic is already licking his chops at the thought of Serbia making a World Group debut in 2008.
Brazil at Austria
Gustavo Kuerten seems unable to make a full return from hip surgery, and compatriots Flavio Saretta, Ricardo Mello and Thiago Alves aren’t scaring anyone. Austria has lost four consecutive first-round matches in the World group, but Jurgen Melzer and Stefan Koubek should have enough firepower on a fast surface to give Austria another World Group shot in 2008.
Belarus at Peru
Oh the drama as Luis Horna and No. 300+ ranked Ivan Miranda try and dust Belarus Max “The Beast” Mirnyi and Vladimir “The Vladiator” Voltchkov. Look for dancing in the streets of Peru after the upset on what will be a bogged-down red claycourt to slow down the serve-and-volleying Beast.
Chile at Israel
The middle Saturday of this tie will be a doubles showcase with former Olympic gold medalists Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu against the Top 10-ranked Israel team of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram. While the Israelis could steal the doubles, the Chileans will have too much firepower in the singles on any surface.
Croatia at Britain
The match-up of the qualifying round. Will the Brits put the Croats on clay, where Andy Murray is semi-proficient and with Tim Henman a former semifinalist at Roland Garros? Doubtful as that was back in the salad days for Henman, who is on his last leg, both physically and confidence-wise. If Ivan Ljubicic and Mario “Baby Goran” Ancic are both healthy for this one, the nod goes to the Croats on any surface.
Switzerland at Czech Republic
Roger Federer usually steps in to save Switzerland from falling out of the World Group. Enough said.
Romania at Japan
Romania’s Andrei Pavel is ranked outside the Top 100, while former threat Victor Hanescu has fallen outside the Top 600 after injury. Japan on the other hand has no one inside the Top 200. The only interest in this tie is from countries hoping to draw the winner in the first round of World Group play.
Korea at Slovak Republic
Top 50-ranked Hyung-Taik Lee has little Korean support on the singles or doubles front, while the Slovak’s Dominik “The Dominator” Hrbaty and Michael Mertinak will be trying to think back to the happy times in 2005 when they reached the World Group final, as opposed to 2006 when they went 0-2 and were relegated to zonal play for 2007. Look for the Slovaks back in the World Group for 2008.
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