The World Group semifinals and World Group Playoffs begin on Friday, and Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, all fresh off playing in the U.S. Open, have each been tapped for their respective Davis Cup ties this weekend.
In the most anticipated tie of the weekend, Canada travels to Serbia to try and upend a Djokovic-led home team for a chance to advance to their first Davis Cup final. Serbia has chosen an indoor clay court for the tie. Djokovic will open play on Friday against Vasek Pospisil (9:00 a.m. ET) and Canada's No. 2, Milos Raonic, follows against Janko Tipsarevic.
“I am tired and jet-lagged as I couldn’t get here before Wednesday, but I am fit now and we haven’t played at home in the Davis Cup for two years," Djokovic said. "Hence I am as motivated and inspired as ever to play for my country in this team event."
The all-important doubles rubber will be contested on Saturday between Davis Cup heroes Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic -- who defeated Bob and Mike Bryan in Boise, Idaho -- against Daniel Nestor and Vasek Posipisil. The reverse singles, which will see Raonic vs. Djokovic and Tipsarevic vs. Posipisil will be played Sunday.
The other semifinal tie has Czech stalwarts Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek host an Argentine team that won't have the services of Juan Martin del Potro (who opted to sit out this season) or David Nalbandian, who had shoulder surgery in May. Instead, the Argentines are fielding a weak team headed by No. 30 Juan Monaco and No. 93 Leonardo Mayer. On a quick hard court at the O2 Arena in Prague, expect the Czechs to make their third Davis Cup final in five years.
World Group Playoffs
• Will Nadal really play? Spain takes on Ukraine at the Caja Majica in Madrid, and the U.S. Open champion's name is on the drawsheet. He's been nominated as Spain's No. 1 and will play singles along with Fernando Verdasco, who was nominated ahead of Tommy Robredo. While Verdasco has been in Madrid practicing on clay, Robredo was busy upsetting Roger Federer and making the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Whether Nadal actually plays depends a lot on Verdasco's ability to defeat Alexandr Dolgopolov in the opening rubber on Friday. Spain hasn't played outside of the World Group in 17 years, and if there's any chance they could lose this tie, expect Nadal to get sent in.
• 16-year old Borna Coric thrown into the fire. What a way to make your Davis Cup debut. 16-year old Coric, who just won the U.S. Open boys' singles title, will play his first Davis Cup rubber against Andy Murray on Friday, when Croatia hosts Great Britain in Umag. Croatia's Davis Cup coach, Zeljko Krajan, has basically conceded that Murray will win both his singles matches, which means this tie will come down to Dan Evans, who will play singles, and the doubles team of Colin Fleming and Jonathan Marray.
Meanwhile, here's a video of Andy Murray laughing. I can't stop watching it.
• Australia faces a Janowicz-less Polish team: It turns out Jerzy Janowicz's bad back is really bad. The Polish No. 1 picked up the injury days before his opening match at the U.S. Open and now he's sitting out this all-important tie, reportedly due to a herniated disk that may require surgery. That's good news for the Aussies as they try to get back into the World Group for the first time since 2007. Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt will have to get it done on slow indoor clay in Warsaw against Lukasz Kubot and Michal Przysiezny. • One-man teams: Stanislas Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori will lead their respective teams without much of a supporting cast. Switzerland hosts Ecuador and with no Roger Federer in the lineup, Wawrinka is scheduled for singles and doubles. This is a particularly important tie for Switzerland, who need to stay in World Group as long as they can in hopes that Federer can commit and form a team that can win the title. The two-man team of Nishikori and Go Soeda will be responsible for all the points for Japan, who host Colombia in Tokyo.