It’s Davis Cup semifinals and there’s little rest for the two best players in men’s tennis. Just days after his US Open win, Novak Djokovic and his defending champion Serbian team host the visiting Argentines led by Juan Martin Del Potro in a tie played in Belgrade.
“Nole is coming back today, we will see how he will feel and whether he will be ready,” said Viktor Troicki, who is expected to replace Djokovic if needed. “If he is not ready, I am. I will fight for every point to help my team reach the finals for the second year in a row.”
In Spain, Rafael Nadal was selected to play singles for his country against the powerful French who feature a trio of established stars. The red clay will be kind to Spain who will have the home court in Cordoba.
“I am tired for sure,” said Nadal yesterday. “It’s only Wednesday, I played a very long match on Monday. I arrived late yesterday and for sure it is a challenge for me to be here. I am trying for my country, but it’s tough.
“I am happy with what happened in New York,” continued the Spaniard. “I fought a lot, I was playing in the right way, but Djokovic did fantastic. For me it’s not a mental problem (playing Davis Cup), it’s more of a physical problem. If we talk about the mental part, I am ready to play.”
Davis Cup Capsules courtesy of the ITF:
SERBIA v ARGENTINA
Head-to-head: first meeting
(Please note that the head-to-head record between Yugoslavia and Argentina was used to determine choice of ground for this tie. Yugoslavia led the series 1-0).
R1: Novak Djokovic (SRB) v David Nalbandian (ARG)
R2: Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) v Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
R3: Janko Tipsarevic / Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) v Juan Ignacio Chela / Juan Monaco (ARG)
R4: Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
R5: Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) v David Nalbandian (ARG)
Defending champion SERBIA won their first Davis Cup title by defeating France 3-2 in last year’s final in Belgrade. Serbia became the 13th nation to win Davis Cup. It was the 6th time a nation had won the Davis Cup trophy on their debut in the final. Serbia were also the 2nd unseeded nation to win Davis Cup after Croatia in 2005.
Serbia defeated India 4-1 in the 1st round in Novi Sad and Sweden 4-1 in the quarterfinals in Halmstad to reach the semifinals for a 2nd consecutive year and just the 2nd time overall. Viktor Troicki played as No. 1 in both ties and is undefeated in 4 singles rubbers played in 2011.
Serbia first competed in Davis Cup in 1995 under the Yugoslav flag. Yugoslavia was renamed Serbia & Montenegro in 2004 before Serbia became an independent nation in 2007. Before 1995, Serbian players represented former Yugoslavia, which reached the World Group semifinals three times in 1988-89 and 1991.
Serbia are on a 7-match winning streak in Davis Cup. The Serbians have only lost 3 times at home since 1995. The last team to beat Serbia in a home tie was Belgium in 2005, which was also the last time Novak Djokovic lost a singles rubber in Serbia.
At No. 2, Serbia are ranked at their highest position to date in the Davis Cup Nations Ranking.
If Serbia win, they will be at home in the final against Spain or away to France.
ARGENTINA are into the semifinals for the 7th time since returning to the World Group in 2002. They have reached the quarterfinals or better every year since 2002. They are looking to reach their 4th final in history.
Argentina defeated Romania 4-1 in the 1st round and Kazakhstan 5-0 in the quarterfinals this year. Both ties were played at Parque Roca in Buenos Aires.
The Argentine team is looking to win their first Davis Cup semifinal away from home. Since the inception of the World Group in 1981, Argentina have made 9 semifinal appearances, losing all 6 on foreign soil (l. Sweden 4-1 in 1983; l. Australia 5-0 in 1990; l. Russia 3-2 in 2002; l. Spain 3-2 in 2003; l. Slovak Republic 4-1 in 2005; l. France 5-0 in 2010).
David Nalbandian won his 32nd Davis Cup rubber (singles and doubles) by defeating Adrian Ungur in the 1st round to put himself in 2nd place on the all-time list of most Davis Cup wins for Argentina. Only Guillermo Vilas (57 wins) has more victories for Argentina.
Argentina is a 3-time runner-up in Davis Cup: in 1981 (l. USA), 2006 (l. Russia) and 2008 (l. Spain). Its defeat to Spain in Mar del Plata ended a run of 13 consecutive wins at home. Argentina is one of only 3 nations, along with India and Romania, to contest more than one Davis Cup Final without winning the title.
If Argentina win, they will play France at home or Spain away in the final.
SPAIN v FRANCE
Head-to-head: Spain lead 5-2
R1: Rafael Nadal (ESP) v Richard Gasquet (FRA)
R2: David Ferrer (ESP) v Gilles Simon (FRA)
R3: Feliciano Lopez / Fernando Verdasco (ESP) v Michael Llodra / Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
R4: Rafael Nadal (ESP) v Gilles Simon (FRA)
R5: David Ferrer (ESP) v Richard Gasquet (FRA)
France ended an 87-year wait to defeat Spain for just the 2nd time in history in last year’s quarterfinals. Not only that, but Guy Forget’s team also whitewashed their opponents 5-0 – it was only the 2nd time that the defending champion had been defeated 5-0 since the inception of the World Group in 1981.
SPAIN are making their 15th consecutive World Group appearance.
Spain have reached the semifinals for the 3rd time in the last 4 years after defeating Belgium 4-1 in the 1st round in Charleroi and USA 3-1 in the quarterfinals in Austin, Texas.
Last year, Spain won their 19th consecutive tie at home when they defeated Switzerland 4-1 in the 1st round, setting a new World Group record for the longest run of wins by a nation at home. Spain’s last home loss was in 1999 (l. Brazil), which was also the last time they lost a Davis Cup tie on clay. They have won 21 straight ties on the surface since that defeat.
Spain have been crowned Davis Cup champion 4 times since 2000, having never previously won the title. The Spanish lifted the trophy in 2000 (d. Australia 3-1 on indoor clay), 2004 (d. USA 3-2 on indoor clay), 2008 (d. Argentina 3-1 on indoor hard) and 2009 (d. Czech Republic 5-0 on indoor clay).
If Spain win this weekend, they will have an away tie against Serbia or a home tie against Argentina in the final.
Spain are currently No. 1 in the Davis Cup Nations Ranking and are one of 5 nations to rank No. 1 since the rankings were introduced in 2001 (alongside Australia, Croatia, France and Russia). Spain were ranked No. 1 between September 2004 and September 2005, and have also held the top spot since July 2009.
FRANCE are bidding to reach back-to-back finals for the first time since 2002. Last year, the French lost 3-2 to Serbia in the Davis Cup Final in Belgrade. The French reached the final without losing a live rubber against Germany (4-1 in Toulon), Spain (5-0 in Clermont-Ferrand) and Argentina (5-0 in Lyon).
France have advanced to the semifinals for the 2nd consecutive year after defeating Austria 3-2 in the 1st round in Vienna and Germany 4-1 in the quarterfinals in Stuttgart. Jeremy Chardy was the hero of the 1st round tie, which was played in an airport hangar, winning both of his singles rubbers including a decisive 5th rubber against Martin Fischer.
This is France’s 4th consecutive away tie. They have won 3 of their last 4 away ties in the competition.
France have been crowned Davis Cup champion 9 times and are joint-third (with Great Britain) on the list of all-time champions, behind USA and Australia. They have also reached the final a further 6 times. Their last title win came in 2001 when they defeated Australia 3-2 on grass in Melbourne.
Only France and USA have won a Davis Cup Final on all four surfaces (grass, clay, hard and carpet).
France are one of 5 nations to have held the No. 1 ranking, alongside Australia, Croatia, Russia and Spain. France held the top spot between February 2002 and September 2003 and again from April 2004 to July 2004. The Davis Cup Nations Ranking was introduced in 2001 and is updated after each round.
France have only twice been absent from the World Group since its inception in 1981. Their 29 years in the World Group is second only to Czech Republic, Sweden and USA, who have competed in the World Group for 30 of the 31 years.
If France win this weekend, they will be at home to Serbia and away to Argentina in the final.
WORLD GROUP PLAY-OFFS
Romania v Czech Republic (s) Centrul National De Tenis, Bucharest (clay – outdoors)
(s) Russia v Brazil , Kazan Tennis Academy, Kazan (hard – indoors)
(s) Israel v Canada, Canada Stadium, Ramat Hasharon (hard – outdoors)
South Africa v Croatia (s), Fanie Du Toit Sports Stadium, Potchefstroom (hard – outdoors)
(s) Chile v Italy, Estadio Nacional, Santiago (hard – outdoors)
Japan v India (s), Ariake Coliseum, Tokyo (hard – outdoors)
Belgium v Austria (s), Lotto Arena, Antwerp (hard – indoors)
Australia v Switzerland (s), Royal Sydney Golf Club, Sydney (grass – outdoors)
(s) = seed
Czech Republic are looking to protect their record of only having been absent from the World Group once since its inception in 1981. Along with Sweden and USA, the Czechs have been present in the World Group for 30 of its 31 years. Their opponents, Romania, are making their 6th straight appearance in the play-offs. Their only loss in a play-off in that time came against Sweden in 2009.
Russia have played in the World Group every year since 1993. The 2002 and 2006 champions will be looking to continue that streak of World Group appearances. Brazil are looking to return to the World Group for the first time since 2003. They have lost at this stage of the competition for the last 5 years.
Neither Israel nor Canada competed in the World Group 1st round this year, so both remain undefeated in 2011. Israel, who reached the World Group semifinals in 2009, are looking to reach the top tier for the 10th time, while Canada have only made 3 previous World Group appearances.
South Africa have not been in the World Group since 1998. Conversely, Croatia have only been absent from the World Group once since making their debut in 2002.
Italy has a perfect record against Chile and even defeated the South American team to claim their only Davis Cup title in 1976. Chile have been in the World Group play-offs for 6 of the last 8 years. Italy are looking to return to the World Group for the first time since 2000.
The only all-Asian clash in the World Group play-offs sees two teams who have played each other 21 times in the past. India hold an 18-3 advantage over Japan but have not won on Japanese soil since 2001.
This is the 9th successive year that Austria have been in the World Group play-offs and their only loss in a play-off in that time was against Chile in 2009. The odds are stacked in their favour against Belgium, having played and won all 4 of their previous encounters.
This is Switzerland’s 7th consecutive World Group play-off tie. Last year the Swiss team lost 5-0 to Kazakhstan at this stage and are faced with an Australian team under a new captain looking to return to the World Group for the first time since 2007.
Many players are playing Davis Cup this year in order to be eligible for the London Olympics. Per ITF rules: “A player is eligible to compete in the Olympic Tennis Event provided they are in good standing with their National Association and the ITF, and have made themselves available for selection to represent their country in Davis Cup or Fed Cup for two of the following years – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 – provided one of those years is 2011 or 2012.”
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