Photo: Fresh FocusRoger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)
Stanislas Wawrinka will begin Switzerland’s tilt to reach the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals for the first time in 11 years on Friday, but must first put memories of his nation’s 5-0 drubbing to Kazakhstan in 2010 behind him.
Severin Luthi’s team suffered a conclusive defeat to this weekend’s opponents in Astana nearly four years ago, with Wawrinka losing a five-set battle against Mikhail Kukushkin in the second rubber, but the 1992 finalists are at full-strength this weekend with the presence of Roger Federer.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion is due to face Wawrinka’s 2010 conqueror, Kukushkin, in the second rubber after the reigning Australian Open champion has taken on Andrey Golubev in the opener. And Wawrinka admits it’s a little odd for him to be playing ahead of Federer.
“I think it can feel strange for everybody when you have Roger on the team and he is No. 2 in the tie," said Wawrinka. “It’s just because I played so well at the beginning of the season winning my first Grand Slam – I know that’s my ranking and I deserve it because I’m playing really good and I’m happy with that.
“Roger is back playing good tennis, he is confident, and I’m sure he’ll play amazing tennis the rest of the year, so I’m sure it’s going to be tough to stay No. 1, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to play well and make some great results and to win the tie.”
Over in Italy Andy Murray, who has recently dropped to No. 8 in the rankings, will hope to overcome a stomach bug that saw him miss Thursday’s draw and has affected his preparations for Great Britain’s first Davis Cup quarterfinal since 1984.
The 26-year-old Briton has been drawn to face Italy’s Andreas Seppi in Friday’s second rubber in Naples, after world No. 13 Fabio Fognini has taken to court against James Ward, ranked 148 places beneath him.
"Andy’s got some sort of virus which has made him feel pretty poorly over the last 24 hours in particular," said Great Britain captain Leon Smith. "It is important to give him a lot of rest and recovery. That’s why he didn’t attend the draw, to spend time with the doctor and stay at the hotel away from the rest of the group.
"Hopefully he can be fit and play a big part in the weekend, which I’m sure he will. He’s a fighter and obviously desperate to play so looks like he will be OK."
Fognini has had his own fitness troubles of late, struggling with a thigh injury since the Masters 1000 tournament in Miami last week, but is confident of making a strong contribution this weekend.
"I feel great," said Fognini. "I was a little bit tired, felt some pain in the legs, but now I feel much better. I have had more than one week to recover and hopefully Friday is going to go the right way."
In Nancy, French captain Arnaud Clement has handed Julien Benneteau the opportunity to contest his first live Davis Cup singles rubber in over two years when he faces world No. 96 Tobias Kamke in the opening rubber against Germany.
Nominally viewed as France’s No. 4 in singles these days and more often than not a doubles player when it comes to Davis Cup, the 32-year-old has been enjoying a stunning few weeks in the United States, where he reached the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells before losing to the eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will then follow for the hosts against Davis Cup debutant Peter Gojowczyk, with Michael Llodra and Gael Monfils scheduled to compete against Kamke and Andre Begemann in Saturday’s doubles.
Over in Tokyo, Czech Republic will continue its bid for a third straight Davis Cup by BNP Paribas title against an undermanned Japan at the Ariake Coliseum. Radek Stepanek will face Japan’s No. 1 Tatsuma Ito in the opening singles match on Friday, with Czech No. 1 Lukas Rosol facing Japan’s No. 2 Taro Daniel in the second match.
While Japan have been rocked by the absence of Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda due to injury and illness respectively, the Czechs are contesting the tie with just three players after losing Jan Hajek to a knee injury.
"So many things have happened in this tie already," said Japan captain Minoru Ueda. "We have had to change members, change the order of the players. Everybody is working hard to show what they have."
For a full report from each World Group quarterfinal draw please follow the links below:
Japan v Czech Republic
France v Germany
Italy v Great Britain
Switzerland v Kazakhstan