With the North American swing just finished, all eyes are now turned to the Davis Cup, with zonal ties and the World Group quarter-finals beginning on Friday to determine either who will take part in September zonal or World Group playoffs, and who will be this years semi-finalists.
In the World Group, there is a very interesting data as well, as for the first time in Davis Cup history, all quarter-final ties will be played on clay. Of course, this coincidence is a strategic choice for all home countries, as they either judged that clay was their strength (Spain, Argentina), or could be their opponent’s weakness (U.S.A. in France), or that it could make the tie more even (Czech Republic receiving Serbia).
If none of the top 4 players in the ATP rankings who have a country taking part in Davis Cup ties this weekend are part of their national team (Switzerland having lost in the first round of the World Group, we then have to exclude Roger Federer), the rest of the top 10 is all in action, except for Mardy Fish, suffering from extreme fatigue and forced out of the U.S.A. team. And all in the World Group.
Here is a preview of the first two World Group ties, Spain and France. I will go over Argentina and Serbia tomorrow.
Spain vs Austria
|Location:||Marina d’Or, Oropesa del Mar, Spain|
|David Ferrer||Jürgen Melzer|
|Nicolás Almagro||Andreas Haider-Maurer|
|Marcel Granollers||Alexander Peya|
|Marc López||Oliver Marach|
Spain hasn’t lost a home tie since 1999, when they were defeated 3-2 by Brazil. Since then, they have installed their home supremacy over their opponents 22 times, including last February when they whitewashed Kazakhstan. It is, then, a very tough ask for Austria to put an end to this streak, especially considering the depth of the Spanish team.
Rafael Nadal might not be on the team this time again, not only because of his knee injury but because he had ruled himself out until at least the semi-finals this year. However, this time, Alex Corretja is able to count on another one of his best assets in World no 5 David Ferrer. Ferrer had mentioned that his participation, this year, would be decided tie by tie and this time, he is available.
Ferrer will be accompanied in singles by Nicolás Almagro, who did great against Kazakhstan in the first round. Friday, Ferrer should not have any trouble against Andreas Haider-Maurer. Almagro, on the other hand, should be made to work, facing Jürgen Melzer, who remains a good clay-courter. I still think that Almagro should prevail.
The doubles may be a tighter tie, as both doubles teams are pretty good. Alex Corretja made a good choice in the first round, going with Marcel Granollers and Marc López, who will be joined again. Their rivals should be Alexander Peya and Oliver Marach, a pretty strong doubles team.
Then again, however valiant the effort may be from the Austrians, I don’t think that Spain’s home reign will come to an end this weekend.
My prediction: Spain 4, Austria 1.
France vs U.S.A.
|Location:||Monte Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune, France|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||John Isner|
|Gilles Simon||Ryan Harrison|
|Julien Benneteau||Bob Bryan|
|Michaël Llodra||Mike Bryan|
For this tie, France chose as venue the same that hosts the Monte Carlo Masters 1000, which will be held in a couple of weeks. In this case, they are trying to pick on the United States’ weak surface, clay, which was proven to be Switzerland’s mistake in the first round. Can it also prove to be France’s downfall?
First of all, both teams will be deprived of valuable members, as Gaël Monfils was forced to withdraw due to an injury. Guy Forget would have liked to call on Richard Gasquet to replace him, but Gasquet is dealing with elbow problems and so Forget was forced to call on Gilles Simon, who is not a bad clay-courter himself.
As for the U.S., Mardy Fish had to withdraw due to extreme fatigue and has been replaced by Ryan Harrison, who will have the tough ask to face World no 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday.
Impossible? Not necessarily. But the odds favour France in this rubber, for sure. The second rubber should oppose Simon and John Isner. The latter proved that he can hold his own on clay, coming very close to defeat Rafael Nadal in the first round of the French Open last year and defeating Roger Federer in Fribourg a couple of months ago. This should be a more open rubber.
As for Saturday’s doubles, there is no doubt in my mind that the Bryan brothers should take it, no matter how good Julien Benneteau and Michaël Llodra are as a team. Across from them are, after all, the best doubles team in the world, a team able to win on just any surface and a very difficult one to defeat.
My thought is that this tie will be decided in the reverse singles. All depending on tomorrow’s draw, which could be determining. If, for instance, Tsonga – Isner is the fourth rubber, and that Isner wins it, I’m not convinced that Guy Forget will go with Gilles Simon for a decisive rubber, but I think that Ryan Harrison would have the mental fortitude to push his country to the win.
In this tie, the draw will be determining of the outcome.
My prediction: France 2, United States 3
Coming up tomorrow
Preview of the last two ties (Argentina vs Croatia and Czech Republic vs Serbia), draws, and schedules.