The Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round action getting underway on Friday with Czech Republic aiming for a third consecutive title but there are seven other nations in the draw all looking to end their reign.
The nation to get the first crack at taking down the champions is the Netherlands, who are returning to the top tier of the competition for the first time since 2009. The Dutch side will travel to Ostrava aiming for one of the biggest upsets in recent years as Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek once against return to the Czech team with both having been ever-present in their two title runs.
Last year’s finalists, Serbia, have been handed a tricky opening tie at home to Switzerland. With the visitors able to call upon the newly crowned Australian Open Champion, Stanislas Wawrinka, they will be hoping to produce their first World Group victory in a decade against an understrength Serbian team who are without both Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic.
Perennial title contenders Spain and France have been drawn in the same quarter of the draw and should both make it through it would set up a potential blockbuster tie in the next round. Standing in their way are Germany and Australia respectively.
Spain will need to produce a result in Frankfurt with Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco their likely singles players although Roberto Bautista Agut could be called upon to play his first Davis Cup rubber following a run of good form in Australia.
France has one of the strongest sides on paper, with all of their four nominated players currently ranked inside the Top 40. They are unlikely to take Australia lightly, however, as Pat Rafter’s team has a strong mix of experience and youth in the likes of Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios.
Elsewhere there will be a rematch of the very first Davis Cup tie when Great Britain travel to San Diego to face USA with world No. 4 Andy Murray seemingly carrying the hopes of a nation and two nations packed with exciting young prospects meet in Tokyo as Milos Raonic lead the Canadian team against Kei Nishikori’s Japan.
The final two World Group ties will see Italy travel to Argentina and Kazakhstan face Belgium for a place in the quarterfinals.
While for the victors there is a place amongst the final eight, the defeated nations will face the prospect of having to defend their position at the pinnacle of the competition as the losers from this weekend will be joined by eight successful nations from the Zone Groups in the World Group play-offs in September with their place up for grabs.