The Davis Cup semifinals both appear, on paper, to greatly favour the local teams.
It is a matter of surface chosen. It is a question of players present. And it makes both visiting teams appear like huge underdogs in the end.
However, if either of Argentina or Canada did not believe that they can pull out a near miracle, they would not have bothered to show up in Prague and Belgrade.
They are there because they believe that they have a chance to win. After all, they have nothing to lose, have they?
Team Canada’s captain, Martin Laurendeau, came with that answer when asked about the percentage of chances his team had against Serbia: “Even if it was one per cent, there would still be a chance.” (Quote via Tom Tebbutt’s blog)
Similar thoughts have been expressed by Argentina’s Juan Mónaco, who will once again lead his team in the absence of Juan Martín del Potro. Furthermore, Pico is the most experienced player on the team with David Nalbandian not being able to play following a double surgery to his hip and his shoulder in the spring. (El Rey cannot take part in this tie because his shoulder is still impeding him from playing properly.)
“The pressure is on them”, said Mónaco, “as they are defending champions, they are locals, and they are the favourites, but we’re not afraid.” (Quote via CanchaLlena, our translation.)
Nothing to lose can be dangerous
Argentina and Canada will face the Czech Republic and Serbia as clear underdogs, with literally nothing to lose. This, in itself, can be a very dangerous thing for their rivals as, like Mónaco pointed out, the pressure is on the favourites to win, which leaves the opposing team completely free.
Indeed, if Canada and/or Argentina ends up losing, the teams will be disappointed, but in the end, they would also leave with the satisfaction of having tried and fought for three days, only to come up short against a better rival.
On the other hand, should the Czech Republic and/or Serbia lose, they would have a lot to face, considering that they were highly favoured to reach the final, especially with a top 5 player on their team, which neither Argentina nor Canada have. In either of the two teams, the highest ranked player is Milos Raonic at n°11.
Being the underdogs might just make the players be much looser and come up with an increased fighting spirit, only due to the fact that they will not have “the pressure to win”, only the will to prove everyone wrong.
That, in itself, is very dangerous.
Davis Cup is “a whole other ball game”
If there is one thing to be said about Davis Cup, it is that contrary to the ATP World Tour, the players don’t take the court for themselves and for ranking points.
They come to play for their country.
This feeling can drive many players to overpass themselves and make meetings that seem, on paper, done and dusted, turn completely in their favour.
We might think of Amir Weintraub, for example, who becomes almost like a top 20 player when he dons the colours of Israel, as he showed again today, when he battled for five long sets to level the tie in Belgium after Steve Darcis had comfortably won the first rubber for the locals.
We can also think of Dan Evans, who became a hero for Great Britain, sending them into the World Group playoffs after defeating Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets, a rival who was then 245 spots ahead of him in the rankings. In this case, however, Evans was playing at home.
In the end, it is Davis Cup. Everything is possible, even miracles. Ask Canada, who did just that two years ago, in Israel, to reintegrate the World Group for the first time in six years. Two years after this incredible performance, of which Vasek Pospisil was the hero, they are in the semifinals.
To risk repeating ourselves: everything is possible in Davis Cup.