Despite the controversies and suggestions about changing Davis Cup, I’ve always enjoyed the unique features Davis Cup brings to tennis. Overlooking the scheduling issue, Davis Cup is the one time in tennis when you’re allowed to cheer for you’re nation without being jingoistic.
I find a lot of fun in that even though I’m often torn between the US and Russia. Plus, I still have my favorites which makes it rather pleasant sometimes to be able to just watch and be happy with any result. And the best part is that Davis Cup often provides some of the best matches you’ll see all year.
Spain vs Switzerland: I think it’s safe to say that, unless Switzerland gets an easy draw and makes it to the semis or finals, we’ll never see a Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal encounter in Davis Cup. And since both are currently dealing with injuries, we won’t see Federer or Nadal vs anyone this weekend. With that, I can’t see Switzerland pulling this one out on the clay in Spain. Even with Spain’s “depleted” field, they still have plenty of players to fall back on. Stanislas Wawrinka is the only accomplished player playing for the Swiss and, even if he wins both of his matches, Spain has always done surprisingly well in doubles. And it doesn’t help that Wawrinka is a combined 3-8 against Tommy Robredo and David Ferrer. Spain 4-1
France vs Germany: Two talented yet underperforming nations make for an intriguing tie. However, Germany is a little short on its A-listers. Tommy Haas is currently in rehab which leaves Germany with Benjamin Becker and Philipp Kohlschreiber having to take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau, and Michael Llodra. On paper, France should easily get through. They’re playing in France on an indoor hard court surface. Llodra and Benneteau are coming off of some great results this month. However, Llodra and Tsonga basically retired against each other during their Dubai clash. Because of injuries and Kohlschreiber’s tendency to play incredible at the most opportune times, this tie is likely to be decided in the fifth rubber. Doubles will be the key for the winning team. France 3-2
Russia vs India: Russia is another nation that’s loaded with talent much like France and Spain. And with a couple of injuries here and there, Mikhail Youzhny and Igor Andreev are leading the pack. Barring injury, Youzhny is the in-form guy of this tie coming off two straight hard court finals. This tie will be played in Moscow also on indoor hard and there’s no reason for the Russians to lose. Even if the tie falls onto Igor Kunistyn’s hands, he’s knows how to play on this surface. India should win the doubles, however, with Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati, but it’s hard to see them doing any kind of damage in singles. Russia 4-1
Sweden vs Argentina: Argentina has suffered some set backs with Juan Martin del Potro and Juan Monaco being injured, but it does look like David Nalbandian will be able to play. Even so, this tie is essentially Robin Soderling vs David Nalbandian. They are the best players on their team by far and they will be expected to inspire their respective teams. The tie will be held in Sweden on an indoor hard surface (again) and both of these guys are great indoor players (Nalbandian is more accomplished but the Swede is in better form). The x-factor will be Joachim Johansson. His career has been plagued with injuries but when he plays his best, few can match his pace. Sweden 3-2
Croatia vs Ecuador: This should be a blow out for the Croats. With match leader Marin Cilic and serve machine Ivo Karlovic, they should have no problem dispatching a team who’s best play barely ranks inside the top 100 (Nicolas Lapentti). Because this is Davis Cup, rank and status often goes out the window and the results can be baffling. However, both Cilic and Karlovic have enough experience in Davis Cup to be able to handle any miracles the Ecuadorians conjure up. Croatia 5-0
Serbia vs United States: This is one of those ties where either result would satisfy me. The Serbs are looking to make history by reaching the quarterfinals for the first time. The US consists of young new flesh in their singles department looking to make a big statement early. Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki, and Jankko Tipsarevic make up a heavy-duty line up for the Serbs. And Nenand Zimonijc has been a top doubles player for several years now. But it’s never going to be easy to foil the Bryan brothers, especially in Davis Cup. John Isner will be making his debut while Sam Querrey will be making only his third appearance. Both are already titlists in 2010 and are ever improving their ranking and play. I give the slight edge to Serbia only because it is on home soil and that soil happens to be clay. This tie is set up to be the best one in this first round of Davis Cup action and I hope we see great tennis regardless of the result. Serbia 3-2
Belgium vs Czech Republic: Last year’s runner-ups hope to continue their good form as they head out to the clay courts of Belgium. Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek lead the team despite lackluster results up to this point in the season (fun fact: both share losses to Andy Roddick and Ernest Gulbis). The Rochus brothers and Xavier Malisse haven’t done much better so I expect both teams to show up and play some brilliant tennis. Czech 3-2
Chile vs Israel: It’s hard to talk about this tie without thinking about the devastation in Chile, but I want to focus on just the tennis. This is the only tie being played outdoors and it is on clay. Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu lead the charge against Harel Levy and Dudi Sela. Israel played some inspiring tennis in last year’s Davis Cup and could very well find that inspiration again. The x-factor here will be, however, the ramifications of the Chilean earthquake. The Chileans will either lose because they’re too distracted or win because they’re so motivated. Because this tie is in Chile, I’ll go with the latter. Chile 4-1
People often criticize Davis Cup and claim that no one cares about it. Any fan of tennis should have some interest in DC simply because it’s still tennis. Perhaps the media should put in an effort to promote ties and televise them more often. Especially since the US is ALWAYS in at least the first tie and won the whole thing a few years ago, there’s plenty of ways to create interest in the event. Start by appealing to all the jingoism.
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