After previewing the ties of last year’s champions and runners-up, I will take a closer look to two of the ties that, I think, will be the most interesting to follow for the tennis fans, regardless of where they are from: Switzerland vs U.S.A. and Canada vs France. If the first one seems fairly easy for the home country, the second one seems more even, particularly in view of the latest news.
Switzerland vs U.S.A. – At home with Roger
We’ve known for quite some time that Roger Federer intended to play this home tie against the U.S. and were fantasizing about an encounter between him and Andy Roddick in Davis Cup. Sadly, Roddick announced in Melbourne that he would not play Davis Cup because of a hamstring injury but he would not have played anyway because of the hard-clay-hard the week after combination, physically pretty taxing as we know.
Nevertheless, Roger Federer is there to play on the indoor clay of Fribourg and Séverin Lüthi counts on the same team that ensured the Swiss presence in the World Group last fall in Australia:
- Roger Federer
- Stanislas Wawrinka
- Marco Chiudinelli
- Michael Lammer
Then again, let’s make this clear: as usual, Federer and Wawrinka play the first three ties and if they have won by then, in will come the bench-warmers for the dead rubbers.
The U.S. come in with a team that will be deprived of Roddick, as I mentioned, but also of Bob Bryan, whose wife gave birth to a pretty little daughter several days ago, but still a very competitive team:
- Mardy Fish
- John Isner
- Ryan Harrison
- Mike Bryan
Captain Jim Courier’s team, however, is not out of trouble in this tie, as not only is it played in Switzerland and with Roger Federer on the team, it’s also played on clay, a surface on which both Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka excel and on which the U.S. players… well… don’t excel that much. True, John Isner did give an unbelievable fight to Rafa Nadal in Roland Garros last year, but the circumstances are pretty different with Federer this time around. First, it’s Davis Cup, and second, we’re talking about a fully confident Roger Federer, as opposed to a doubting Rafa in Paris last season.
The only question mark, for me, is the health of Stan Wawrinka, who’s had shoulder issues since the beginning of the season. However, Wawrinka always seems to revive on clay, a surface on which he’s extremely comfortable and it should thus not be too much of a problem, except perhaps if his shoulder is still troubling him.
Friday, the tie will start with Stanislas Wawrinka facing Mardy Fish. It’s tough not to favour Wawrinka when we know that on clay, he is definitely the better player. Same goes with Roger Federer facing John Isner next, as I mentioned. Of the two rubbers, the one that, to me, appears the trickiest is that of Federer vs Isner.
On Saturday, Federer and Wawrinka team up once again and will face Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison. I admit to being very curious about how this pairing on the U.S. side will turn out. It could be pretty interesting to watch.
If Switzerland doesn’t arrive Sunday having won already, I think that Federer vs Fish will be what ends it for Switzerland. Considering the strengths of both teams, I still believe it will be an easy win for the Swiss.
Switzerland wins 4-1.
Canada vs France – The Cinderella tie?
In all truth and honesty, I think that if there could be a surprise in the World Group, it would come from Canada. The Premier Hard chosen for the tie is not yet at its fastest but is still pretty comfortable for the huge serve of Milos Raonic and the game of Vasek Pospisil, who are the two Canadian singles players.
In fact, the team is pretty much unchanged from the tie in Israel, except for the absence of Peter Polansky (replaced by Frank Dancevic), who is with the team as sparring:
- Milos Raonic
- Vasek Pospisil
- Frank Dancevic
- Daniel Nestor
On the Frenchmen’s side, Guy Forget doesn’t count on Gilles Simon or Richard Gasquet for this tie, as neither wanted to make the trip to Vancouver before either heading to South America (Simon) or rush back to Europe (Gasquet), but they still have a very, very good team:
- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
- Gaël Monfils
- Julien Benneteau
- Michaël Llodra
However, what we thought might happen happened today, as Gaël Monfils finally opted out of the Friday singles due to knee issues. To replace him, Guy Forget called on Julien Benneteau, who had a very nice run on the Australian hard courts a few weeks ago. His reward: a rubber against Milos Raonic, while the first rubber will oppose Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Vasek Pospisil.
To be honest, I think that, in this tie, a surprise is possible. With Monfils’ injury, Canada can very well go into Saturday’s doubles tied with France and Daniel Nestor has never lost a doubles rubber on hard court which, even with him and Pospisil facing the very good pairing of Benneteau and Michaël Llodra, is a big advantage for Canada.
If Canada goes into Sunday’s reverse singles with a 2-1 advantage, everything is possible, as Raonic would then face Tsonga and this would promise to be an absolute cracker of a match! With the crowd playing a major part in the bargain, really, there could be a surprise, even though we know that Tsonga is particularly good on indoor hard courts.
In my opinion, for its unpredictability, this will be the tie to follow.
There will be a surprise. Canada wins 3-2.
The other ties
I don’t have time to preview the other ties, but two other ties promise to be very interesting: Japan vs Croatia and Austria vs Russia. Both ties are very open and the win could really go both ways in either.
As for Czech Republic vs Italy and Serbia vs Sweden, I’m pretty sure both ties will be one-sided affairs in favour of the locals.
I will try to update the blog throughout the weekend but don’t surprise yourselves if I don’t. Time is, right now, my worst enemy, and I already know I will miss the end of Canada – France.