30 Jan 2014

Davis Cup draw sets up intriguing opening day

News Article

Photo: Srdjan StevanovicStanislas Wawrinka (SUI) and Roger Federer (SUI)

Switzerland will field two Grand Slam champions on the opening day of its Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie against Serbia on Friday in a daunting test for the 2010 champion in Novi Sad.

Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka will both feature for Switzerland on Friday, with 17-time Grand Slam winner Federer opening proceedings against world No. 268 Ilija Bozoljac before recently crowned Australian Open champion Wawrinka looks to extend his 2014 winning streak to 12 matches when he takes on world No. 102 Dusan Lajovic.

Federer and Wawrinka's presence sees the Swiss team become the first nation to feature two Grand Slam men's singles champions in its line-up since 2005, when Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick turned out for USA and Juan Carlos Ferrero and Rafael Nadal pulled on their country colours for Spain.

"It’s going to be very tough,” admitted Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic. “The good thing is that we are under no pressure at all because my players are up against Federer and Wawrinka, the former being one of the best players ever and the latter the Australian Open champion.

"We will do our best on the court and it’s also a big chance for the players who are here to show that we can stretch our roster."

Over in Ostrava, Czech Republic also sees its two most faithful servants open proceedings as the defending champion launches its bid to become the first nation in World Group history to win the Davis Cup title three years in a row.

Radek Stepanek will shoulder the burden of playing first once again for the host nation when he takes on world No. 46 Robin Haase on Friday, before Australian Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych takes on Igor Sijsling in the second rubber.  

There had been some speculation as to whether 35-year-old Stepanek, the fifth-rubber hero for the Czechs in the final for the last two years in a row, would lose the second singles berth to Lukas Rosol, who has now risen above him in the rankings, but captain Jaroslav Navratil has opted to stick with a winning team.

“From my side, it’s no different if Radek is second or third [ranked Czech player],” said Navratil. “Radek is a little bit better player, still now with more experience than Lukas, and we want to finish this game very early.”

Australia, who returned to the World Group after a six-year absence from the top tier of the competition, faces a tough first day against France in La Roche Sur Yon.

Visiting captain Pat Rafter has given a debut to 18-year-old Nick Kyrgios after the youngster’s impressive showing at the Australian Open, where he led Benoit Paire by two-sets-to-love in the second round before falling to the Frenchman in five sets. Kyrgios opens up against Richard Gasquet before Lleyton Hewitt takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second rubber.

There were two late nomination changes in San Diego where USA are playing host to Great Britain in a rematch of the first ever Davis Cup tie. John Isner was replaced by Donald Young for the hosts having failed to fully recover from an injury he sustained in Australia while Dom Inglot, a doubles specialist, replaced Britain's No. 3 Kyle Edmund.

The result of the changes means that Andy Murray will now open against Young on Friday before James Ward has been chosen to face the new USA No. 1 Sam Querrey.

The doubles nominations saw no surprises as the Bryan brothers will represent USA and Murray will partner Colin Fleming for the visitors, although the inclusion of Inglot in the team gives them options to change things around.

Murray will potentially return to the court for a third time in the fourth rubber in the battle of No. 1 players before what could turn out to be decisive final match between Young and Ward.

Over in Tokyo, last year’s semifinalist Canada will have to do without Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil against Japan after injuries ruled both men out of playing singles. Raonic was forced to drop out with an ankle injury ahead of Thursday’s draw while Pospisil is still struggling with the back injury that forced him to retire from the Australian Open, although he has been nominated to play alongside Daniel Nestor in the doubles.

"The game plan has changed with Raonic being out," said Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori. "We were surprised when we heard the news. But the bottom line is it is still Japan against Canada and we have to be prepared."

Instead, Peter Polansky opens Canada’s bid to win just its third World Group tie with a testing clash against Nishikori, before Frank Dancevic takes on Go Soeda in the second rubber.

In Astana, Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin faces Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans in the first rubber before Andrey Golubev tackles David Goffin. The Kazakh team is looking to reach the quarterfinals for the third time, while Belgium is hoping to earn a spot in the last eight for the first time since 2007.

In Frankfurt, Roberto Bautista Agut faces a difficult debut for Spain against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the opening rubber, before Florian Mayer tackles Feliciano Lopez.

Agut impressed new captain Carlos Moya with his scalp of Juan Martin del Potro at the Australian Open earlier this month and has his full backing ahead of the first rubber.

"I trust Roberto, he has been playing very well lately," Moya said at Frankfurt City Hall after Thursday’s draw. "He has to try to play the same way he does any week on Tour and he's been playing very well lately. Just don't worry about the crowd, try to enjoy. He is playing a player with a higher ranking, so the pressure is on Kohlschreiber."

Veteran Tommy Haas, back in the German team for only the second time in seven years, will not feature in the opening two singles rubbers but has been nominated for the doubles alongside Daniel Brands. The 35-year-old could well play a part in the reverse singles, according to German captain Carsten Arriens.

“It gives Spain a little pressure because all our players would have played by Saturday night and they will know that Tommy could play singles,” said Arriens.

"It was not a tough decision, it was clear that Phil and Flo would start and the question was always would Tommy be ready for the Saturday doubles and then be an option for Sunday."

You can view the full draw stories for this weekend’s ties by clicking the relevant tie below:

World Group first round
Czech Republic v Netherlands    
Japan v Canada    
Germany v Spain    
France v Australia    
USA v Great Britain     
Argentina v Italy     
Kazakhstan v Belgium     
Serbia v Switzerland