The first round of the 2011 Davis Cup begins Friday. This week, I’ll be previewing the eight Davis Cup World Group ties. Let’s start at the top of the draw:
Serbia vs. India: If it were the Davis Cup of doubles, India would be in good shape. As it is, the defending champions from Serbia are good enough to beat anybody, let alone a side with only one singles player in the top 500.
India does boast one of the best doubles teams in Davis Cup play, with Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. That’s one rubber. If Somdev Devvarman has a great day, he might be able to beat Janko Tipsarevic or Viktor Troicki. That’s two rubbers–maybe. No matter how you slice it, you’re not going to come up with any more.
Novak Djokovic, fresh off another victory in Dubai, is just about unbeatable on hard courts, and no one’s going to challenge that this weekend. My not-very bold prediction: Serbia wins, 4-1.
Russia vs. Sweden: This one is a little more interesting. I wrote last week about Russia’s solid Davis Cup team a few years down the road, but this year things don’t look so rosy. The Russian side is relatively deep, but with Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youhzny sitting it out, they don’t have a singles player currently inside the top 75. Igor Andreev has had some doubles success, but the Russians are lacking in doubles expertise, as well.
Sweden is the exact opposite. The presence of Robin Soderling would make any squad a fearsome one, but beyond that, you get the impression that they didn’t quite know how to find three more players. Among those three are two doubles specialists, Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt.
It all pivots on the doubles match. Soderling gives the Swedes two easy victories. Joachim Johansson, at this point in his career, will probably not beat any of the Russians in a singles match. That leaves Aspelin/Lindstedt against Andreev and maybe Igor Kunitsyn. It could go either way, but I’ll pick Sweden, 3-2.
Challengers: There’s a free live stream for the Dallas challenger this week, which gave me the opportunity to watch some truly mediocre tennis yesterday. I missed the one notable result from yesterday’s action, in which American 18-year-old Jack Sock took down Rik De Voest, a veteran South African currently ranked 160th. Straight sets, no less.
If you’re a fan of American tennis, today’s card is for you. Five of the seven singles matches scheduled are between two U.S. players, including the main event: #1 seed Robert Kendrick against super-teenager Ryan Harrison. Also of interest is the second match, pitting South African Izak van der Merwe against another American teen, Denis Kudla.
Only two other challenger results worth mentioning. Grigor Dimitrov had an easy time advancing over David Guez to the second round in Cherbourg, while in Salinas, Horacio Zeballos needed a third-set tiebreak to overcome American wildcard Eric Nunez.
See you tomorrow!