Bemelmans opens Davis Cup against Laaksonen
LIEGE, Belgium (AP) With both teams missing their top players, 132nd-ranked Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium will play No. 344 Henri Laaksonen in the opening singles of the Davis Cup tie against defending champion Switzerland on Friday.
Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are skipping the event this year after leading Switzerland to its first title in 2014.
Belgium's top player, David Goffin, withdrew at the last minute because of a back injury.
''It's not easy. There's a big difference between Roger and Stan and the other guys, but my role is to show them there are players behind them ready to do their best,'' Swiss captain Severin Luthi said after Thursday's draw. ''We'll give our best.''
Steve Darcis will take on Switzerland's Michael Lammer in the second singles.
In Saturday's doubles, Bemelmans and Neils Desein are set to face Adrien Bossel and Lammer.
Although they won't be favorites at the 4,000-seat Country Hall, the Swiss are counting on their greater experience.
''It's important for us to start well,'' Luthi said. ''Henri played against the Czechs, and Michael has been in the team for many years. We hope that will help us.''
Lammer took part in the campaign last year, and Laaksonen has been selected twice for his country, the last time in 2013 against the Czechs in the first round.
The 21st-ranked Goffin, who has a 7-2 record in Davis Cup singles, could be fit in time to play in Sunday's reverse singles.
''I don't want to take any risks for tomorrow. It's better to put Ruben on the court,'' Goffin said. ''I took the decision this morning with the medical staff and the captain. It's better to take one more day off, or two maybe, and maybe be ready for Sunday if it's necessary.''