Tennis News Wire -
This may be the toughest Davis Cup round of all.
Tough, because the really weak teams have been weeded out, so a team can't coast. But the season is well advanced, and a lot of people are injured, and no one really wants to get hurt in a quarterfinal. In a semifinal or a final, sure, they'd turn up; big things are at stake. But for a quarterfinal? What's the fun of that?
So Spain, e.g., was without Rafael Nadal even before Nadal turned up lame. Their team is David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro for singles, with Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez for doubles. To be sure, they're hosting Austria on clay, and Austria has a team consisting of Jurgen Melzer, Andreas Haider-Maurer, Alexander Peya, and Oliver Marach. And the toughest match (Almagro versus Melzer) is first, so the Spanish will have to sweat a little. That lineup all but hands the Spanish two points right out the door. But, still, it would have looked better with Nadal....
Serbia is also without its big gun; Novak Djokovic won't play. That means they are left with Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki for singles, Nenad Zimonjic for doubles, and Ilija Bozoljac for dead ties. (They're listing Bozoljac and Zimonjic in the doubles. We'll see.) And they have to face the standard Czech team of Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, and two-guys-who-won't-play (in this case, Cermak and Rosol). On clay, in the Czech Republic. That frankly looks like trouble for Serbia.
The Americans originally had all their top players -- Mardy Fish, John Isner, and the Bryans. The French did not; they had Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Michael Llodra, and Julien Benneteau. But they also had the choice of ground, and they chose clay. Even with Gilles Simon missing, that felt as if the French had the edge. Then the withdrawals started: The French lost Gael Monfils to a stomach problem. The Americans answered by losing Fish to fatigue. Fish's replacement is Ryan Harrison. And the French, after Monfils pulled out, snagged Simon after all. On the whole, that feels as if it tilts the balance even more toward the French.
Argentina, which is hosting Croatia on clay, also has a full squad: Juan Martin del Potro, Juan Monaco, David Nalbandian, and Eduardo Schwank. Croatia answers with the Marin Cilic (who is still getting his form back), Ivo Karlovic, and not much else -- officially it will be Cilic and Lovro Zovko in the doubles. Argentina probably did the best shape of any of the quarterfinalists to get their full lineup onto the court. It is interesting to note, though, that they are listing Nalbandian rather than Monaco in singles (and Nalbandian with Schwank in the doubles). Is there something going on that we don't know about?
As usual, the interesting zonal ties are mostly in the Europe/Africa zone. Israel will be hosting Portugal, and Israel has probably the best singles player in the tie in Dudi Sela, and the better doubles team in Ehrlich/Ram -- but they don't really have a #2 singles player. Portugal has two singles players in Rui Machado and Frederico Gil. So that could be interesting.
The British must once again field a Murray-less team against Belgium. Their doubles team of Fleming/Hutchins should do well against a Belgian team of Rochus, Darcis, and Bemelmans, but it doesn't seem likely James Ward and Dan Evans can win two singles points.
The Dutch clearly have the advantage over Romania, but it is by no means clear whether South Africa (minus Kevin Anderson) or Slovenia is stronger.
KEYWORDS: Davis Cup Preview