April 6, 2012

Davis Cup Quarterfinals: Separating the Men...

I don't think I'm the only one who was surprised by some of the results during first round Davis Cup action this year. Even beyond the amazing U.S. triumph over Swiss giants Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, we saw a surprisingly close call in the Austria/Russia tie, and the upstart Japan team took Croatia down to the wire. And with the fields narrowed for this weekend's quarterfinal matches, we'll now really see who's stronger than their record and whose previous wins were just a fluke.

Spain vs. Austria

The Austrians will have their work cut out for them. Against defending champion Spain, they'll be up against a slew of strong stars. They might be missing their biggest star in Rafael Nadal, but David Ferrer is consistently one of the biggest fighters on court, and Nicolas Almagro, relatively quiet recently, has nonetheless continued to show his prowess on the clay. Rounded out by Marcel Granollers and doubles powerhouse Marc Lopez, they should be the clear favorites.

Austria will be banking on the strength of Jurgen Melzer, playing well again after a title in Memphis. The 2010 French Open semifinalist has had his own success on the dirt in the past, and might just be able to recapture that momentum. It'll be tough, though, with no other real singles stars on the team -- the Austrians may have to hope that doubles rubber goes their way.

Argentina vs. Croatia

The Croats will also have tough time if they're going to advance further. Pitted against a veteran Argentine team that boasts resurgent talents of Juan Martin Del Potro, finally back in the top ten again, Juan Monaco, a surprise semifinalist in Miami, and veteran David Nalbandian, arguably a bigger surprise in the Indian Wells quarters. They've made at least the semis in five of the last seven years and seemed primed to do it again.

Their opponents, meanwhile, will be lead by Marin Cilic and big-serving Ivo Karlovic, neither of whom are playing at the top of their game. Either is capable of pulling off an upset, of course, but they'll have to bring their A-game if they're going to unseat last year's runners-up. But playing on the Argentine's homefield, it seems unlikely we'll see any huge surprises here.

Czech Republic vs. Serbia

Both the Czechs and the 2010 champion Serbs were able to handily take their opening ties, each just losing a rubber during the weekend. But things might not be so one-sided this time around. Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek are both playing well for their team, while their opponents' brightest start, world #1 Novak Djokovic, will be sitting out this round. Sure Janko Tipsarevic, at a career high ranking of #8, is coming off a run to the Miami quarters, where he very nearly notched an upset over Andy Murray. And Nenad Zimonjic is always a force in the doubles rubber. But if both these countries play to their ability, it could be the closest match-up we see.

France vs. U.S.

Quite possibly the most attention will be put on the Americans as they try to return to the semis for the first time since 2008 -- though that might just be because I'm in America. Still, having deposed a heavily favored Swiss team does put a bit of a target on their backs. They'll be missing stalwarts like Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish, and will instead rely on Indian Wells finalist and rising star Ryan Harrison. Backed up by the #1 doubles team Mike and Bob Bryan, they're not without firepower, but this will be a true test of the next generation of U.S. stars.

France, on the other hand, will bring four top-fifty singles players to the mix, a couple of whom are also well-accomplished in the doubles realm. But Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, though always a threat, has been little better than mediocre this year, and Gilles Simon suffered a close loss to Isner in the California dessert. They have experience on their side, though, and a little more time at the top than their opponents. But if the Americans can score the win, it might be the coup we've been waiting for.

Of course, like with any major tennis event, there's no way to really know what will happen. But this weekend's quarterfinals sure hold potential for more than a few surprises -- and a couple blowouts. The results could really make clear the differences between those that advance and those that stay behind. And as the survivors continue to vie for Davis Cup glory, it looks like the competition will only get tougher from here.

1 comment:

Martin Baldridge said...


This is an excellent round up - very informative indeed, keep em coming