I don’t have a lot of time, but I think I have just enough to scrape together a quick preview on the 2008 Davis Cup, which begins first round play in just a few hours.
Last year I blew it picking Croatia to beat the U.S. in the final. I guess it wasn’t a half-bad selection, but I’ll try to do better this year (thankfully I can’t even pick Croatia again!).
Tomorrow’s first round really has some tasty match-ups with Serbia v. Russia, USA v. Austria and even Sweden v Israel.
In the best opening rounder, Russia’s the slight favorite at home against a Serbian team that features the red-hot Novak Djokovic and the pesky Janko Tipsarevic. Russia, though, will counter with their own form of red heat with Marat Safin, Dmitry Tursunov, Mikhail Youhzny and Nikolay Davydenko. Having Marat back in the Davis Cup mix should get Russia through in a thriller to meet the Czech Republic, who’ll handle Belgium’s best.
Argentina will happily host and then destroy Great Britain, which won’t even have the services of Andy Murray. If GBR can get a point that would be a great effort. Israel’s an intriguing upset pick against visiting Sweden, but I’ll stick with Mats and Co. to find a way to beat down Dudi Sela and the Ram/Erlich in a real close one.
The bottom half of the draw is a little lighter in terms of overall strength with Peru and Korea, both of whom should go down quietly setting up a Germany-Spain clash.
France should have no trouble with Romania and I’ll take the U.S. to eek one out over the lefty Austrian team.
In the quarterfinals, the Czech Republic will have a good crack at Russia, but it’s tough to pick against Russia at home. And it’s even tougher to pick against Argentina at home against Sweden.
Germany v. Spain sounds good on paper but it really isn’t. Unless Tommy Haas is 100% and Nicolas Kiefer is back to his old annoying ways, Spain’s my pick over the home German squad.
And in the best quarterfinal match-up (and maybe the best match of the entire year), I’ll stay with the home U.S. team to bully France, which has a ton of talent, a ton of players, but playing in the U.S. on hard courts just ahead of Monte Carlo is not going to help the French cause. Richard Gasquet, JW Tsonga v. Roddick and Blake, Llodra/Clement v. the Bryans. That’s some good tennis. Hell, I might even buy a ticket for that one. Let’s hope it happens.
So my semifinals look like this: Russia v. Argentina, Spain v. U.S. And at that stage and with those match-ups, it really comes down to who’s playing at home. In this case that would be Argentina and Spain, so I’m taking both of them to make the final.
I know it’s a long way away, but I’ll take a flyer and go with David Nalbandian (he seems to play well at the end of the year!), the Fighting Guillermo’s – Canas, Coria, Perez-Roldan and even Vilas – plus Gabriela Sabatini to overcome the nerves and pressure and edge the visiting Spaniards in a good ol’ baseline brawl.
Now if you are Argentina do you play hard court or clay? Maybe even go indoors. I’m not sure but regardless, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal, provided they make the journey, will not be easy outs. Yet in the end I’m still sticking with the Argies who’ll have the luxury (or luck) of never having to leave their country in capturing their first Davis Cup title. What a party that will be.
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