Watch List: Roger Federer leads Swiss at Davis Cup, Serena goes to Charleston
The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. This week, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Eugenie Bouchard ease into the clay season in Charleston, S.C., while the men pause for Davis Cup.
Family Circle Cup
Serena Williams was all smiles after winning her seventh Sony Open title on Saturday, and she'll take that positive energy to Charleston, S.C., where she is the two-time defending champion. She has a 15-match winning streak on Charleston's green clay, having lost just one set in the last two years. Needless to say, she's the top seed, with last year's finalist, Jelena Jankovic, the No. 2 seed. The two played a memorable final last year, when the veterans trading some verbal jabs before Serena rallied from a set down to win 12 of the last 14 games.
Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys have been drawn into Serena's half of the draw, with Stephens a projected semifinal opponent. That's if the No. 5 seed can navigate her tricky quarter and get there. She'll open against either surging Ukrainian teenager Elina Svitolina or a qualifier, and could face clay-court specialist Sara Errani in the quarterfinals.
Jankovic's half of the draw is loaded with danger, as Venus Williams, Eugenie Bouchard, Samantha Stosur and Sabine Lisicki are all in the bottom half. Of all the seeds, Bouchard may have the toughest path. A quarterfinalist last year, she could face Venus in the third round and then Jankovic just to make the semifinals.
Davis Cup quarterfinals
Kazakhstan vs. Switzerland: Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka will host an overmatched Kazakhstan team led by No. 56 Mikhail Kukushkin. The Swiss have mercilessly handled opponents on indoor hard courts. Look for Switzerland to ease into its first Davis Cup semifinal since 2003.
Czech Republic vs. Japan: The big question going into this tie in Tokyo is the availability of Kei Nishikori, who withdrew from the Sony Open semifinals because of a groin injury. With No. 5 Tomas Berdych opting out of Davis Cup duties this round -- it's likely the long flight to Japan played a role in that decision -- Japan's chances of upending the defending champions, who will be led by Lukas Rosol and Radek Stepanek, have improved. Nishikori is the reason that Japan has worked its way back into the World Group and is now a step away from making the semifinals for the first time. For that to happen, though, he has to be healthy.
Great Britain vs. Italy: Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi welcome Andy Murray and Co. to Naples, where Great Britain will (once again) have to find its clay game quickly. Interestingly, captain Leon Smith nominated the always unpredictable Dan Evans, ranked No. 127, to play as the British No. 2. Watching him play Fognini should be ... interesting.
France vs. Germany: Injuries have devastated the German team, which will be without Tommy Haas (shoulder), Philipp Kohlschreiber (elbow) and Florian Meyer (pelvis). That leaves Tobias Kamke as the only member of the nominated squad with any Davis Cup experience. France, on the other hand, is fielding a solid squad for the home tie, with Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau. This should be a clean win for France.
[Complete draw] Indian Wells champion Flavia Pennetta, who lost in the third round at the Sony Open, leads the field. Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki also headline the International-level hard-court event in Mexico.