The Davis Cup World Group playoffs are starting today, as Israel asked, and was granted, that the tie be played Thursday, Friday, Sunday with a rest on Saturday due to Yom Kippur, a very important Jewish holiday.
For the occasion, and because yours, truly is a Davis Cup lover, we offer you an overview of the most interesting of the playoff ties.
Croatia vs Great Britain
Venue: Stadion Stella Maris, Umag, Croatia
Surface: Outdoor clay
|Ivan Dodig||Andy Murray|
|Borna Coric||Daniel Evans|
|Mate Pavic||Colin Fleming|
|Antonio Veic||Jonathan Marray|
It is a Marin Cilic deprived (unofficial suspension) Croatian team that will face Great Britain in Umag. For the occasion, Andy Murray is there to lead his country to attempt a return to the World Group, where the Brits have not been since 2008, when they lost to Argentina 4-1 in the first round, in Argentina.
Murray is bound to play both his singles and the doubles. However, Leon Smith substituted James Ward for Jonny Marray just before the draw, so we can expect a change as far as the doubles rubber is concerned, with Marray rather than Murray playing with Colin Fleming.
The World n°3 has been drawn to open the tie, and he will face the winner of this year’s U.S. Open Junior event, 16-year-old Borna Coric, ranked 525 in the world. This is a great vote of confidence for the youngster by captain Zeljko Krajan, as this means that Coric will play a best-of-five match for the first time tomorrow. Nevertheless, it is pretty sure that Murray will not take this rubber for granted, especially since young Coric has quite a lot of talent.
The second Friday rubber is pretty open, as Ivan Dodig, ranked 35, will face Dan Evans, ranked at a career high of 149. However, Evans’s ranking can be quite misleading, especially with the confidence he’s shown since the last Davis Cup tie Great Britain played, and in which he carried his country to victory against Russia after a tough loss in his first rubber. Nevertheless, it will be his first “ATP level” match on clay, which favours Dodig.
Regardless of who will play with Colin Fleming in Saturday’s doubles, be it Murray or Marray, Great Britain should logically prevail against Dodig and Mate Pavic.
As for Sunday’s reverse singles, perhaps Croatia will substitute Coric for Antonio Veic to face Evans in the last singles. That is, if Murray doesn’t prevail over Dodig in the first match, which he logically should.
Our prediction: Great Britain to win, 4-1.
Switzerland vs Ecuador
Venue: Patinoire du Littoral, Neuchatel, Switzerland
Surface: Indoor hard (Rebound Ace)
|Stanislas Wawrinka||Julio Campozano|
|Marco Chiudinelli||Emilio Gómez|
|Henri Laaksonen||Roberto Quiroz|
|Michael Lammer||Gonzalo Escobar|
It is without much surprise that Severin Lüthi decided to go with his two best players, Stanislas Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli (Roger Federer is not playing), for all the rubbers against Ecuador.
After his long and exhausting run at the U.S. Open, it is to wonder in which state Wawrinka will be when he takes on young promise Emilio Gómez, tomorrow. However, the World n°10 should prevail, especially on a surface that greatly favours him.
As for Chiudinelli, it should be the same against Julio Campozano, although it would not be surprising to see the Swiss dropping a set in this match.
Ecuador’s biggest chance would be the doubles rubber, as Wawrinka and Chiudinelli will face Gonzalo Escobar and Roberto Quiroz.
Our prediction: Switzerland to win, 4-1.
Germany vs Brazil
Venue: Rathiopharm Arena, Ulm, Neu-Ulm, Germany
Surface: Indoor hard (Rebound Ace)
|Philipp Kohlschreiber||Thomaz Bellucci|
|Florian Mayer||Rogerio Dutra Silva|
|Daniel Brands||Bruno Soares|
|Martin Emmrich||Marcelo Melo|
On paper, it appears that it will be a blowout from the local team. But is it really so? For sure, Thomaz Bellucci is having a difficult season and dropped to n°116 in the rankings, but hard is his best surface, and he can still surprise.
Furthermore, the Brazilian doubles team, comprised of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, is a very experienced team and they did beat the best team in history, Bob and Mike Bryan, in the first round. It was the first time that the Americans lost a Davis Cup rubber since the 2008 quarter-finals against France.
As well, Brazil brought the United States all the way to a decisive fifth rubber in the first round, despite being greatly disfavoured by being visiting, by ranking, and by the choice of surface.
In this view, why would it be any different this time? Indeed, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer are seasoned players, and Kohlschreiber comes back from an impressive U.S. Open, and an amazing performance against Rafa Nadal, whereas Thomaz Bellucci has been injured more often than not this season, and Rogerio Dutra Silva is far from a hard court player. Nevertheless, considering how Brazil hung on during their first-round tie against the United States, we cannot give them for vanquished.
Brazil will fight a mighty fight.
Our prediction: Germany to win, 3-2.
Poland vs Australia
Venue: Torwar Hall, Warsaw, Poland
Surface: Indoor clay
|Lukasz Kubot||Bernard Tomic|
|Michal Przysiezny||Lleyton Hewitt|
|Mariusz Fyrstenberg||Chris Guccione|
|Marcin Matkowski||Nick Kyrgios|
There has been a big turn of events, this morning, just before the draw, as it was announced that Polish n°1 player, Jerzy Janowicz, was forced to pull out from the tie due to a spine injury, and was replaced by Michal Przysiezny.
On his official Facebook, Janowicz apologised and explained the decision:
I’m sorry to say that together with the team I decided to withdraw from participating in upcoming Davis Cup matches. As you know, during my stay in New York I got seriously injured (spine injury). My participation in the matches would pose a threat not only to my health, but also to the interest of the team. I believe that Michał will successfully substitute for me. It was a difficult decision and I’ve been waiting to the last minute to make it. At the same time I’d like to thank for all messages and good words after my last US Open match. Regardless of the current situation we hope for you support! See you on Friday in Warsaw!
A Janowicz in shape might have done some damage to the Australian team. However, a maimed JJ would not have been of any use, and despite Przysiezny’s dislike for clay, he will be more useful than Janowicz in his current state.
This being said, the tie has taken, on paper, a much more interesting turn for one that was already very interesting. We know that the Aussies are not the best players on clay, including Lleyton Hewitt, although he is expected, more than Bernard Tomic, to win his rubbers. On the Polish side, Lukasz Kubot is more than a pretty decent player on clay.
As for the doubles, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski have pretty good chances to prevail against Hewitt and Chris Guccione, but we should not surprise ourselves if this rubber goes to the limit.
Our prediction: Australia to win, 3-2.
The other playoffs
We will not preview the other four ties, not because they are not interesting matchups, but because they do not appear as interesting as the others in terms of the matches they will offer us.
Spain, with Rafael Nadal on the team, at home, and on clay, should make very short work of Ukraine. We predict a 5-0 win for the home team in Madrid.
Japan goes all-in with Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda to play all the rubbers against Colombia which, if Nishikori is back to his regular shape, should give many troubles to the visitors, except perhaps in doubles, where Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah have the edge. It should nevertheless be an easy win for the locals.
Netherlands vs Austria should be interesting, and a win from the visitors is to be considered.
As for Belgium against Israel, it can be tighter than expected, with the locals deprived of their best player, David Goffin, who broke his wrist in a fall during a practice session a couple of days ago.