What Davis Cup Round One Means For...

Rob YorkSenior Writer IMarch 9, 2009

The United States: How many times in the past five years has the U.S. DC squad gone into day two slightly on edge because James Blake couldn’t rise to the task at hand?

Fortunately for the Americans, they have the Bryan Brothers, the most reliable Davis Cup doubles squad around, to put them in front and Andy Roddick to seal the deal.

Though his credentials are thinner than great Americans past—John McEnroe and Andre Agassi come to mind—Roddick’s commitment to the Cup and performance therein has been second to none. His victory over Stanislas Wawrinka on Sunday made him 11-0 when in a position to clinch a DC tie.

It also was his 31st DC victory, moving him past Agassi and second only to McEnroe among American Cup competitors.

As round two will almost certainly be on clay, the Americans will need to think about the second singles slot. Blake’s past struggles on the surface indicate that they’ll need to consider someone else; Sam Querrey or Robby Ginepri are no one’s clay court specialists, but their results on the surface last year were certainly better than Blake’s.

Above all, though, they’ll need a big performance from Roddick against…

Croatia: Call them the DC dark horses, if a team that won the Cup just a little more than three years ago can be considered eligible for that status. With stalwarts Mario Ancic and Ivo Karlovic, plus rising star Marin Cilic, Croatia may well be favored to top the Americans in round two, and a significant threat in rounds beyond.

Younger than most countries who are Cup threats, Croatia is the only team in the field that is undefeated against the United States. Their recent wins against the Americans—at home in 2003 and in the States in 2005—were both due to inspired play from Ivan Ljubicic, who won two singles and one doubles match in each of those ties.

Ljuby’s no longer active in the Cup, but this may be where the 6’6 Cilic grows up mentally.

Spain: This was an auspicious start to their title defense. Few of the teams the Spanish contingent could’ve drawn in round one could’ve appeared as dangerous as Serbia, led by world No. 3 Novak Djokovic. Spain, however, was never in danger this weekend.

Between them, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 12 David Ferrer did not drop a set in four matches. Perhaps Spain's doubles play ought to have been sharper, but it wasn’t an issue this time, as Djokovic’s performance in this tie…well, how do you say “Lay an egg” in Serbian?

It likely won’t be an issue in the next round either, as a game but undermatched German squad will be traveling to Spain. One need not be a master strategist to know on what surface that tie will take place, and who will be (heavily) favored to win it.

Argentina: Every year it becomes more of a mystery why this team has not yet won a Cup. In round 1, even though the Argentines lacked David Nalbandian, Juan Martin del Potro or even Jose Acasuso, the hapless Netherlanders (who fielded a team most tennis fans couldn’t pick out of a lineup) were unable to win a single rubber against them.

In round two, Argentina’s biggest guns will almost certainly be needed, if they’re going to have a chance playing away against …

The Czech Republic:
The Czechs pulled off the biggest surprise of the weekend, stopping the French squad 3-2. Despite France getting two singles wins out of world No. 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 8 Gilles Simon couldn’t live up to his end of the deal, suffering a devastating straight-set loss on Sunday to The Worm: Radek Stepanek.

Now the Czechs get to host the Argentines. World No. 18 Stepanek and world No. 22 Tomas Berdych will provide stern opposition even if Nalbandian and del Potro show up.

If an Argentine squad as depleted as round one's version should arrive in Eastern Europe, though, it’s the Czechs that will be moving on the round 3.

Israel/Sweden: How do you say “black eye” in Swedish? Regardless of how one feels about the Israel/Gaza conflict, what did Swedish protestors expect Israel’s Davis Cup squad to do about it? When has the mix of sport and politics ever been a good idea?

The best thing we can say this tie is that it is over. Now, the Israeli squad faces long odds against Russia in round two, despite home-court advantage.