Here we are. Ahead of a weekend’s action of Davis Cup, where four nations will try to make their way to the event’s final in November, but despite that, the most interesting match-ups feature those countries battling to stay in the World Group.
Sure enough, Russia and Germany could get involved in a close encounter in Moscow, but who cares about teams headlined by Nikolay Davydenko and Tommy Haas, when you have Novak Djokovic and Lleyton Hewitt grind it out on a moon-landscaped clay court, in front of nearly 20,000 out-of-their-mind Serbs, which just happens to be the biggest Davis Cup crowd ever, outside of a final. The fact that Serbia is on the verge of making their World Group debut, and Australia on the edge of dropping out of the big leagues for only the second time in Cup history (dating back to 1905!), adds all the drama. Now this is something I’d like to see.
But there’s more. Guess where the No.1 player in the world is playing. It’s not the semis.
The mere fact that Roger Federer is playing Davis Cup, is worth mentioning itself. After all, the Swiss great only shows up for the event once a year, when it’s time to save the country from relegation. This year’s opponent for Switzerland in the play-offs will be the rock-solid Czech Republic, led by No.10 Tomas Berdych, who surprisingly enough finds Radek Stepanek on his side. Stepanek, No.8 a year ago and currently climbing the ranks again after suffering a severe back injury, refused to play for his country for the past three years due to disputes with team captain Cyril Suk. In December last year, Stepanek even said he would never play Davis Cup again. After speaking with current captain Jaroslav Navratil, Stepanek decided to make himself available again, and now he returns to face Federer in his first Davis Cup match after his lay-off.
Assuming Federer wins both his singles matches, and Berdych, Stepanek beat Wawrinka, Federer’s Davis Cup hopes will come down to the doubles match on Saturday, the one area of the game where the 12-time Grand Slam champion is far from invincible. I wouldn’t mind turning on the TV for this one, either.
But no matter how much drama these two encounters may provide, there’s always the British, to take it one step further.
Heading out to Wimbledon’s Court No.1, the Brits will take on Croatia, led by the struggling Ivan Ljubicic. Not having to face Mario Ancic or Ivo Karlovic, who are both staying home due to injury, John Lloyd’s team is looking in good shape to give Tim Henman the perfect goodbye at the only setting right for the Tiger’s farewell, even if it’s ‘just’ a Davis Cup play-off.
Croatia is heading to London with Marin Cilic as their No.2 player. Albeit a great prospect for the future, and yet another big server from Ivanisevic-land, the 18-year-old Cilic is unfamiliar with the heated Davis Cup atmosphere, let alone playing an away tie at Wimbledon in front of a crowd who are about to say farewell to one of their best players in the history of the game. I believe the Brits will pull this one out.
So what have we got left? Oh yes, the US is playing in Sweden and we talked about Germany facing Russia for a second. Right, look for the Americans to roll over the Scandinavians, while in Moscow, the home team edges the Germans.
Gotta love Davis Cup.
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