Davis Cup – Here we go again!

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We are a few hours away from the first round of Davis Cup. In the World Group, it means eight round-of-16 ties spread over five different time zones, the earliest (Japan vs Canada) starting at 23:00 ET on Thursday, whereas the latest (United States vs Great Britain) will start at 14:00 ET on Friday afternoon.

Basically, for someone who would like to follow everything, it would mean spending most of the day up, regardless of the time zone.

For our part, at BATennis World, we have two of our team members (Diego Amuy and Hans Ruhle) on location in Mar del Plata to cover the whole of Argentina vs Italy. Meanwhile, yours truly will bring you coverage of all the other ties, but texts from all eight.

For now, let’s start at the beginning: a short preview of all the World Group ties, along with my predictions for each of them, by time zone. The location of the ties, schedules and results are all available on our special Davis Cup page. Of course, you will find a lot more when it comes to the tie in Argentina.

Japan vs Canada

From a tie that appeared very feasible for Canada, it suddenly became one for which a near miracle would be necessary shortly before the draw, as both number one and number two singles players, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, opted out. In Pospisil’s case, it is only for the singles, as he will play doubles alongside Daniel Nestor, since his back is not yet fully recovered. Raonic, for his part, is out of the whole tie due to an ankle injury. They are replaced by Frank Dancevic and Peter Polansky.

As for Japan, they will count on both Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda in singles, whereas Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama will be their doubles team.

Dancevic is a man who can cause miracles for Canada, as we have seen a year ago against Spain. However, defeating Nishikori, at home, might prove a colossal task for the Canadian.

My prediction: Japan wins, 3-1.

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Kazakhstan vs Belgium

This is a quite open tie, as both teams have many strengths, which can convert in weaknesses due to the inconsistency of certain players, and the lack of experience of others.

Several question marks are raised as to the physical state of Andrey Golubev for the Kazakhs, who retired in the first round of the Australian Open due to a leg injury, and of David Goffin for the Belgians, who opted out of the first Grand Slam of the season because of a tear in his thigh muscle.

The home factor could play in favour of the Kazakhs. However, it is an open tie.

My prediction: Kazakhstan wins, 3-2.

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Czech Republic vs Netherlands

The defending champions are counting, again, on their full lineup (which means Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek), although a bit of worry remains as far as Stepanek is concerned, due to a neck injury he sustained at the Australian Open. However, if he is healthy, the Czechs will assure their permanency in the World Group for another year.

My prediction: Czech Republic wins, 4-1.

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Serbia vs Switzerland

Surprise! Not only will Switzerland will count on the Australian Open champion, Stanislas Wawrinka, they will also benefit from the presence of Roger Federer, who was announced as being part of the team on Wednesday, to the general surprise.

Serbia, on the other hand, is deprived not only of Janko Tipsarevic, injured, and Viktor Troicki, suspended, they will also play without Novak Djokovic, who has decided to take a deserved rest this time in order to focus on regaining the top of the ATP rankings.

With a team comprised of Dusan Lajovic, Ilija Bozoljac, Filip Krajinovic, and Nenad Zimonjic, against two solid top 10 players like Federer and Wawrinka, the 2013 finalists will need a small miracle to avoid the play-offs.

My prediction: Switzerland wins, 4-1

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Germany vs Spain

This tie will mark the début of Carlos Moyà as captain of the Spanish team, and he faces this first tie without Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. He is, however, counting on the ATP World Tour Finals doubles champions, David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco, which boosts the visitors’ chances of clinching the doubles rubber.

As for Germany, they will play without their number one player, Tommy Haas, at least in Friday’s singles, as Haas is not yet over the shoulder injury which forced him to retire in his first-round match at the Australian Open. There is also a bit of concern as far as Philipp Kohlschreiber is concerned, he who ended up not playing in Melbourne as the leg issues he’s had since the first round of Davis Cup last year came back just before his first-round match.

A difficult tie for the Spaniards, but perhaps more open than it seems.

My prediction: Germany wins, 3-2

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France vs Australia

An interesting and promising tie if there is one. Australia is playing without Bernard Tomic, who just had hip surgery, but they can count on the ultimate fighter, Lleyton Hewitt, as well as on young promises Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, with doubles specialist Chris Guccione completing the lineup.

France is also going with a very strong team, with Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in singles, supported by Julien Benneteau and Gaël Monfils, who should team up in doubles. If we add the crowd factor, the tie can tip in favour of the locals. But it will be tight.

My prediction: France wins, 3-2

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Argentina vs Italy

Argentina is playing, again, without the support of their best player, Juan Martín del Potro, who had announced a month ago that he would not be playing this tie, then got injured again on his left wrist. However, they count on a very willing and hard-working team to face a team that is, on paper, quite stronger.

Impossible task for the locals? No. Difficult? Indeed. There is, however, a factor that really cannot be neglected: the constant and strong support of the Argentinian crowd, who will be there, as always, to encourage and try to transport their players as much as they can.

Can Argentina remain in the World Group for the 13th consecutive year? Difficult to say.

My prediction: (As much as it breaks my heart) Italy wins, 3-2

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United States vs Great Britain

Another semi-surprise came just before the draw, as the number one player of the United States, John Isner, was forced to retire due to an ankle injury, the same one that forced him to retire in the first round of the Australian Open. Isner has be replaced by Donald Young, who is making his Davis Cup début.

That début will be played against Andy Murray.

It is, for that reason, a pretty open tie, in which British number one Murray is listed to play three rubbers (his two singles and the doubles alongside Colin Fleming). In singles, he will be supported by James Ward.

The United States have the advantage of the home ground, and of the surface (clay). It will not be an easy return to the World Group for the Brits, who must hope that Murray’s back is in top shape.

My prediction: United States win, 3-2

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Your turn

Now is your turn: what are your Davis Cup predictions?