The first round of Davis Cup play in 2013 kicks off this weekend with eight World Group ties. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are both absent but World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will lead his Serbian team into Belgium tomorrow and the Australian Open champion and his teammates aren’t pleased with the home team’s clay surface in Chaleroi.
“This is definitely the worst court we have ever played on,” Djokovic told Reuters Thursday. “We’re all putting our health at stake here.
“How is it possible that a clay court can be solid and can be a successful, playable court if it’s built on parquet? We tried to slide a few times, but our feet stayed under ground.”
Following his fourth Australian Open title, Djokovic traveled home to Monte Carlo before arriving in Belgium on Wednesday.
“It’s been a long few weeks in Melbourne and exhausting but still very successful,” said Djokovic. “Right now I am turning my attention to Davis Cup and I am glad I am part of this team again. I have missed that feeling to be honest and hopefully we can have a successful team.”
Top ranked Spain is without their warhorses Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco for their tie against Canada in Vancouver. The Canadians now have high hopes with anchor Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil and are favored to pull the upset.
“It’s a great opportunity to be playing in Canada. If this were in Spain we know that it would be a much more challenging,” Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said. “This will undoubtedly be very difficult, but we feel good about playing any country here at home. We have a great crowd here, we have guys who are healthy and are keen to be playing. Our objective as a group is to make it past the first round and we intend to do that with the group we have here.”
In Jacksonville, Florida, team USA will be heavily favored against the visiting Brazilians. John Isner has been a question mark all week but after missing the Australian Open with a knee injury the 6-foot-10 giant says he’s okay to play.
“I had a very encouraging week of practice, which was what I was looking for,” Isner said. “I wasn’t sure how my knee was going to react when I really started practicing hard because it’s been a while. Practice has gone well and that was the main decision for us and my knee really hasn’t bothered me. So I feel like I’m ready to go and these guys feel like I’m ready to go as well.”
Other stars playing this weekend includ Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for France, David Nalbandian is scheduled to return for Argentina and Tomas Berdych will lead his Czech team in their title defense against Stan Wawrinka and Switzerland.
In the zonal competitions Alexandr Dolgopolov, Grigor Dimitrov, Lleyton Hewitt, Leander Paes, Jerzy Janowicz, Martin Klizan all are expected to play for their respective countries.
Last year’s champions Czech Republic begin the defence of their title with an away tie against Switzerland. Czech Republic are looking to establish a record for their nation by winning their sixth straight tie while Switzerland are bidding to reach the World Group quarterfinals for the first time since 2004.
Canada are bidding to win their first World Group tie this weekend. The Canadians face a difficult task at home to last year’s finalists Spain, who are looking to reach the World Group quarterfinals for the sixth consecutive year.
Croatia face their fourth straight tie away from home as they travel to Turin this weekend to take on Italy. The last time Italy advanced beyond the first round of the competition was in 1998 when they finished runner-up.
Belgium will be hoping to extend their 1-0 winning head-to-head record when they take on Serbia in Charleroi. Serbia, the 2010 champions, are aiming for a place in the World Group quarterfinals for the fourth straight time.
Brazil are back in the World Group for the first time since 2003 and will play USA in Jacksonville, Florida, for a place in the last eight. USA, who reached the World Group semifinals in 2012, hold a 3-1 lead in previous meetings against the South American nation.
France host Israel, who are back in the elite 16 nation pool after two years in Zone Group action, under new captain Arnaud Clement. Clement will be hoping his nation can maintain their perfect record against the Israelis, having won all three of their previous ties.
Argentina host Germany in Buenos Aires in a rematch of the 2012 World Group first round tie. Since returning to the World Group in 2002, Argentina have always progressed to at least the quarterfinals.
Austria will be looking to reproduce the kind of form that saw them reach the quarterfinals last year for the first time since 1995 when they travel to Astana to face Kazakhstan.
Since the World Group was introduced in 1981, at least one unseeded nation has always reached the quarterfinals with a record four doing so in 1987 and 2005. This is the 33rd year of the World Group.
Canada v Spain (s) – Vancouver, CAN – hard (indoors)
R1: Milos Raonic (CAN) v Albert Ramos (ESP)
R2: Frank Dancevic (CAN) v Marcel Granollers (ESP)
R3: Daniel Nestor/Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v Marcel Granollers/Marc Lopez (ESP)
R4: Milos Raonic (CAN) v Marcel Granollers (ESP)
R5: Frank Dancevic (CAN) v Albert Ramos (ESP)
Italy v Croatia (s) – Turin, ITA – clay (indoors)
R1: Fabio Fognini (ITA) v Marin Cilic (CRO)
R2: Andreas Seppi (ITA) v Ivan Dodig (CRO)
R3: Simone Bolelli (ITA) & Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) v Mate Pavic (CRO) & Nikola Mektic (CRO)
R4: Andres Seppi (ITA) v Marin Cilic (CRO)
R5: Fabio Fognini (ITA) v Ivan Dodig (CRO)
Belgium v Serbia (s) – Charleroi, BEL – clay (indoors)
R1: David Goffin (BEL) v Victor Troicki (SRB)
R2: Olivier Rochus (BEL) v Novak Djokovic (SRB)
R3: Ruben Bemelmans/Steve Darcis (BEL) v Nenad Zimonjic/Victor Troicki (SRB)
R4: David Goffin (BEL) v Novak Djokovic (SRB)
R5: Olivier Rochus (BEL) v Victor Troicki (SRB)
(s) USA v Brazil – Jacksonville, FL, USA – hard (indoors)
R1: Sam Querrey (USA) v Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
R2: John Isner (USA) v Thiago Alves (BRA)
R3: Bob Bryan/ Mike Bryan (USA) v Marcelo Melo/ Bruno Soares (BRA)
R4: John Isner (USA) v Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
R5: Sam Querrey (USA) v Thiago Alves (BRA)
(s) France v Israel – Rouen, FRA – hard (indoors)
R1: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v Amir Weintraub (ISR)
R2: Richard Gasquet (FRA) v Dudi Sela (ISR)
R3: Julien Benneteau/Michael Llodra (FRA) v Jonathan Erlich/Dudi Sela (ISR)
R4: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v Dudi Sela (ISR)
R5: Richard Gasquet (FRA) v Amir Weintraub (ISR)
(s) Argentina v Germany – Buenos Aires, ARG – clay (outdoors)
R1: Carlos Berlocq (ARG) v Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
R2: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Florian Mayer (GER)
R3: David Nalbandian/Horacio Zeballos (ARG) v Christopher Kas/Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
R4: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
R5: Carlos Berlocq (ARG) v Florian Mayer (GER)
(s) Kazakhstan v Austria – Astana, KAZ – clay (indoors)
R1: Andrey Golubev (KAZ) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
R2: Evgeny Korolev (KAZ) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
R3: Yuriy Shukin/Andrey Golubev (KAZ) v Alexander Peya/Julian Knowle (AUT)
R4: Andrey Golubev (KAZ) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
R5: Evgeny Korolev (KAZ) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
Switzerland v (s) Czech Republic – Geneva, SUI – hard (indoors)
R1: Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v Lukas Rosol (CZE)
R2: Henri Laaksonen (SUI) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
R3: Marcos Chiudinelli/Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v Tomas Berdych/Ivo Minar (CZE)
R4: Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
R5: Henri Laaksonen (SUI) v Lukas Rosol (CZE)
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