Here’s a handy guide to the other seven first-round ties around the tennis planet last weekend.
Serbia 2, Switzerland 3
NOTABLE: It was supposed to be a surprisingly lacklustre tie, what with the absence of Novak Djokovic (and Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki).
Then, all of a sudden, Swiss No. 2 became Swiss No. 1 as Stan Wawrinka won the Australian Open. Then – blockbuster stuff, really – Roger Federer decided to head to Novi Sad to support his buddy.
It will be the last time for awhile that the Fed will be No. 1 – the seedings are determined at the team nomination deadline, apparently, even if the player involved wasn’t on the list, and not as of the latest rankings.
Obviously it means the Fed is feeling good. I Tweeted during the Australian Open that it was ludicrous that a country with two top-10 singles players had never had a serious shot at the Cup. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year.
Suddenly, Monica Seles’ hometown is overrun with Serbs lining up for eons to get a glimpse of the Fed even though, we know, they’ll root for their boys. It’s going to be a fascinating dynamic and, of course, the Fed has the shoes.
As for Serbia, it’s a tough one for them. Pretty depleted lineup for the team that made the final just a few months ago. They’re going to struggle to win a set in this one.
Great Britain 3, U.S.A 1
NOTABLE: John Isner was a late scratch at the draw, an ankle injury ongoing since the Australian Open forcing him out of the lineup. He will be replaced by the phoenix that is Donald Young, who is making his Davis Cup début.
The Brits, conversely, have gone with James Ward instead of, as some expected, youngster Kyle Edmund.
The Americans chose to lay down some red clay and use the Dunlop Fort clay ball, with the biggest reason being Isner’s successes on the surface (even though the opinion here is that Isner’s great Davis Cup results on clay had as much or more to do with the fact that there was a coach on court to support him, as he enjoyed in college) to counteract the presence of Andy Murray on the other team. Now that Isner is gone, that highlights the dangers of making moves like that to try to throw the other team off, rather than going with your relative strengths.
The Americans have chosen a terrific venue by laying the court down in left field at San Diego’s Petco Park, the only downside being that, because of the size of the park and the layout, it’s going to look a little empty even if all the seats by the court are filled.
But at least it’s one of the places in the country where you can just about take the weather to the bank.
And, the American do have Ron Burgundy on their side.
France 5, Australia 0
NOTABLE: Difficult choices for the player-rich French, who left out Gilles Simon and, even more notably, Michaël Llodra, who has been a standout performer, especially in doubles, for many years.
Even notwithstanding the mercurial force of nature that is Gaël Monfils, it leaves them without a strong doubles presence (we’d have recommended the duo of Llodra/Mahut, who got to the semis in Australia, but perhaps if Llodra were still a force in singles, it might have gone that way).
For Australia, it’s a Davis Cup coming out of sorts for their two young budding stars, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kyrgios, older by one year, gets the nod on the first day. And, of course, there’s still Lleyton Hewitt, who could be counted on to play three rubbers.
Argentina 1, Italy 3
NOTABLE: Once again, the absence of top Argentine Juan Martin del Potro is noteworthy, although this time he obviously is having left wrist issues serious enough to head to the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. for a consult.
Naturally, newly-retired Davis Cup stalward Davis Nalbandian will reportedly make a visit to cheer on the boys. Because, you know, lol.
We’ll see what Juan Monáco has for this one. He didn’t play any warmup events, and quickly went out at the Australian Open to Ernests Gulbis. He also has a new coach, former journeyman player Diego Junqueira.
They’re using the Wilson Australian Open balls on the red clay; interesting choice. It’s not like the Argentines spent a whole lot of time using them when they were there.
Argentine captain Martin Jaite compared Fabio Fognini, the Italian No. 1, to Gaston Gaudio this week. That’s a pretty good one.
Germany 4, Spain 1
NOTABLE: The two top Spaniards, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, are both absent from the first tie (as they were a year ago against Canada). Spain is so deep, though, that they have a pretty good shot regardless.
For Germany, Philipp Kohlschreiber was a last-minute scratch before his first-round match at the Australian Open, so who knows what kind of shape he’s in. No. 2 is the funky Florian Mayer, who had a very good Australian Open. Tommy Haas is also on the team, but he, too, was injured in Australia (shoulder) and is only listed for doubles even if he’s the top-ranked German.
In another Australian Open connection, the surface the Germans are using is the old Aussie surface, Rebound Ace. That court was awfully stick in the hot outdoor conditions Down Under; no doubt it’s a lot better indoors.
Czech Republic 3, Netherlands 2
NOTABLE: Davis Cup heros Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek are on hand. But it seems they are there to ensure the Czech Republic at least doesn’t have to play a relegation match this year. Indeed, they may opt out if they (as expected) beat the Dutch this weekend.
Certainly, they’ve done their time and earned it, although it’s always a major shame when the top players (and Australian Open semifinalist Berdych is certainly one of them) bail out of Davis Cup.
The Dutch are without the astonishing Jesse Huta Galung, perhaps the most perfect man on the planet. But others obviously deserve it more, and they must take transplanted Netherlands Antilles doubles specialist Jean-Julien Rojer.
Kazakhstan 3, Belgium 2
NOTABLE: With everything else that’s going on, this one is the poor cousin of the first-round ties, although that’s not true for thoes involved.
The country that buys its team, Kazakhstan, is the favourite although there’s a pretty significant falloff after its top two players. Belgium, however, has no top 100 players on its squad; their nominative top guy, Steve Darcis, is still trying to come back after being injured during that epic win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last summer.
(Info from the Davis Cup website; pics from Twitter)