'The World Cup of Tennis' takes the stage again with Davis Cup semis
The Davis Cup finalists will be determined this weekend when Switzerland takes on Italy in Geneva, and France welcomes the Czech Republic to Roland Garros. Meanwhile, Spain, Argentina, Canada and the United States will compete for next year's groupings in the World Group Playoffs.
Switzerland vs. Italy: Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka host an Italian team led by No. 17 Fabio Fognini in Geneva, Switzerland. The Swiss have decided -- not surprisingly -- to go with an indoor hard court against the Italians, who advanced to the semifinals with a great win over Great Britain on red clay. Given the way the draw has broken out, this is the best chance Federer has had to win the Davis Cup in years. He and Wawrinka beat a Serbian team that was without Novak Djokovic in the first round, then escaped with a 3-2 win over an inspired Kazakhstan team in the quarterfinals.
Here's the draw:
Day 1: Roger Federer vs. Simone Bolelli; Stan Wawrinka vs. Fabio Fognini
Day 2: Roger Federer/Stan Wawrinka vs. Paolo Lorenzi/Andreas Seppi
Day 3: Roger Federer vs. Fabio Fognini; Stan Wawrinka vs. Simone Bolelli
Italy could steal the doubles rubber -- a team of Fognini-Bolelli could get the nod -- but they're overmatched in singles. Italian captain Corrado Barrazutti has opted to go with No. 76 Simone Bolelli instead of No. 48 Andreas Seppi as the No. 2 singles player on Day 1. Seppi is 0-10 vs. Federer, having never won a set. Bolelli hasn't won a set off Federer either, but Bolelli is coming off a confidence-boosting U.S. Open, where he beat Vasek Pospisil in five sets and narrowly lost to Tommy Robredo 6-2 in the fifth set. Either way, expect Federer to get the win here. Wawrinka will take on Fognini in the second match on Friday. Wawrinka leads the head-to-head 3-1 but the two have never played on hard court. As for Sunday's reverse singles, which puts the No. 1s and No. 2s against each other, Fognini has played Federer twice in his career and just once has he won more than two games in a set.
Prediction: Switzerland 4-1.
France vs. Czech Republic: Roland Garros will host this highly anticipated tie, which will feature four players in the top 25. French captain Arnaud Clement has nominated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau, while the two-time defending champion Czechs will go with their standard team of Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely.
Here's the draw:
Day 1: Richard Gasquet vs. Tomas Berdych; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Lukas Rosol
Day 2: Julien Benneteau/Gael Monfils vs. Radek Stepanek/Jiri Vesely
Day 3: Jo-WilfriedTsonga vs. Tomas Berdych; Richard Gasquet vs. Lukas Rosol
In a somewhat surprising move, Clement has opted to bench Monfils -- at least for Day 1 -- in favor of a slumping Gasquet to play Berdych. Gasquet, down to No. 21 in the rankings now, skipped both ATP Masters 1000s on clay and played just four matches on the surface this year. The move seems to indicate that France is willing to concede the loss to Berdych if it means saving Monfils' energy for Days 2 and 3. Similarly, the Czechs will sit Stepanek on Day 1 in favor of Rosol against Tsonga. The difference there is that Rosol has been playing well as of late, having won the Winston-Salem Open last month and a rested Stepanek is crucial for Saturday's doubles. It's all setting up to be a dramatic Sunday. All of France's hopes could fall on Monfils' shoulders in a decisive fifth rubber.
Prediction: France 3-2.
World Group playoffs
United States vs. Slovakia: The U.S. has been in the World Group for 25 consecutive years, but if the Americans don't come out with the win over Slovakia, it will get demoted into the Zonal groups, and American men's tennis may be in a rougher state than we thought. John Isner, Sam Querrey and the Bryans take on Martin Klizan, Norbert Gombos and Michal Mertinak on hard court in Chicago.
India vs. Serbia: Djokovic is skipping the tie, which means it will fall on Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic, and Nenad Zimonjic to try and keep the Serbs in World Group. India's team includes Somdev Devvarman as its Singles No. 1, Yuki Bhambri at No. 2, and Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna for doubles. The tie is being hosted in Bangalore on hard courts.
Canada vs. Colombia: Milos Raonic and Vasek Posipisl lead the Canadians in Halifax, in a tricky tie against a solid Colombian team. Colombia's No. 1, Santiago Giraldo has six top 20 wins this year. But in the all-important doubles rubber, you have to like Daniel Nestor and Pospisil's chances against any team the Colombians field. Advantage Canada.
Brazil vs. Spain: This is not the Spain team that we're used to seeing. No Rafael Nadal, no David Ferrer, no Feliciano Lopez, and no Fernando Verdasco. Spain has sent Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Andujar, Marc Lopez and David Marrero to Sao Paulo. That team should still be good enough to get them win to stay in World Group. Brazil has to rely on No. 83 Thomaz Bellucci and No. 201 Rogerio Dutra Silva in singles.
Israel vs. Argentina: Israel is the designated host of the tie but due to regional instability it's being played in Sunrise, Florida. Expect to see Argentina maintain their World Group status. Even without Juan Martin del Potro, a team of Leonardo Mayer, Carlos Berlocq, Federico Delbonis, and Horacio Zeballos will get the job done.
Belgium vs. Ukraine: It was just last year when Belgium's No. 1 David Goffin broke his wrist in a freak injury while preparing for Davis Cup. Now he's back, playing extremely well, and hoping to keep the Belgians in World Group. This should be a very competitive tie. Sunday's match between Goffin and Sergiy Stakhovsky is definitely worth tuning into.
Australia vs. Uzbekistan: Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios lead the Aussies in Perth against Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov.
Croatia vs. The Netherlands: Marin Cilic, fresh off winning the U.S. Open, is available for the tie but the Croats are going to do their best to win this without him. Borna Coric and Mate Delic will play the singles on Day 1.