I know that the Davis Cup has become a non-event for even many tennis fans; I find that shame.
I am a tennis fan and a sport fan, and one of the biggest disappointment to me is the lack of national pride in Tennis. Now, it doesn’t mean that there is no national pride, it just means that there isn't much of it.
Other than soccer, no other worldwide Sport has the parity that Tennis has.
With all respect to basketball, it's popularity or quality of play is negligible outside of the US. Golf has some worldwide players, but the majority of top players are either American or British.
The problem with the tennis player, and usually the top players, is that they would rather rest when no money is involved. In addition, they sometimes prefer regular ATP Tour events rather then playing for their country.
Until the Beijing Olympics, most of the top players would skip the Olympic tournament and they only really went to China because the ATP points were added to the tournament.
For all the credit and love that Roger Federer gets, I don’t think he gets enough criticism for not playing for the Swiss Davis Cup team.
When he started to play well, he got a pass, since Switzerland didn’t have another top 100 player in the World, but today the Swiss have Stanislas Wawrinka and together they would make it deep in the tournament every year.
Regardless, tomorrow eight countries will face off to try and reach the Davis cup semi finals and some high quality tennis will be played in some of the stadiums, even though the top four players in the World won’t be in action.
Cez Arena, Ostrava
Stadium Capacity: 7500 (including 300 temporary seats)
Team Czech Republic: Tomas Berdych (20), Radek Stepanek (21), Ivo Minar (64), Lukas Dlouhy (236).
Team Argentina: Juan Martin Del Potro (5), Jose Acasuso (36), Leonardo Mayer (61), Juan Monaco (62).
With the Czechs having home court advantage and Argentina looking weak this time other then Juan Martin Del Potro, I have to give the Czechs the advantage. However, it seems like Stepanek has been pulled from the match against Del Potro to play in the doubles and I think he matches up better then Berdych against Del Potro; after all, Stepanek beat Del Potro in Memphis this year.
Prediction: Czech Republic—Argentina 3-2.
Sportska Dvorana "Zatika", Porec Stadium Capacity: 4000 seats
Surface: Clay (indoors).
Team Croatia: Marin Cilic (15), Ivo Karlovic (27), Roko Karanusic (112), Lovro Zovko (No singles ranking, 68 doubles ranking).
Team USA: Mardy Fish (23), James Blake (17), Mike Bryan (1 doubles ranking), Bob Bryan (1 doubles ranking).
Croatia having the home court advantage is big, but with Karlovic on their team, I would advise them to build a grass court. Except Cilic among single players, as clay courts aren’t the favorite surface of the players, even if Blake won a tournament on clay this season.
However, Blake is 2-0 against Cilic in his career, which will seem to be the decider to me, since I think Fish will lose twice; the Bryans will win the doubles and Blake will beat Karlovic on clay. With the crowd in Croatia and Cilic in better form, I will give him the edge.
Prediction: Croatia—United States 3-2.
Sport Palaces Ltd (Nokia), Tel Aviv
Stadium Capacity: 11000
Surface: Hard (indoors)
Team Israel: Dudi Sela (33), Harel Levy (210), Jonathan Erlich (91 doubles ranking), Andy Ram (11 doubles ranking).
Team Russia: Marat Safin (60), Igor Andreev (24), Mikhail Youzhny (69), Igor Kunitsyn (35).
Israel moved its match to Tel Aviv’s big Basketball arena, and the atmosphere is going to be extremely noisy. Both teams have a player who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon. Dudi Sela might be one of Men’s Tennis fastest climbers up the ranking right now and, although ATP success is new to him, he has always been a great Davis Cup player.
You never know what to expect from Marat Safin anymore. He will play the doubles and the decider if needed, but Youzhny will play Sela on the first day.
Doubles could be tricky; Ram and Erlich have been one of the best doubles in the World til Erlich’s long injury. Since his return, they havn’t played much and suddenly Israel’s free point isn’t such a certain.
I think for Israel they will need Sela to win both matches plus the doubles.
Prediction: Israel - Russia 3-2.
Plaza de Toros de Puerto Banus, Marbella
Stadium Capacity: 11000
Surface: Clay (outdoors).
Team Spain: Fernando Verdasco (9), Tommy Robredo (14), Feliciano Lopez (40), Juan Carlos Ferrero (37).
Team Germany: Phillip Kohlschreiber (29), Nicolas Kiefer (38), Mischa Zverev (47), Andreas Beck (51).
It's quite a shame for Germany that they can’t play Tommy Haas, but he probably wouldn’t of helped in this matchup. Even without Rafael Nadal, this would seem like a sweep or, at worst case, 4-1. Kohlschreiber can play well when on form, but this would be one of the biggest surprise’s in Tennis history if Germany win this meeting.
Prediction: Spain—Germany 5-0
It would be great if this weekend will create some surprise’s, but even without them, we'll see some good tennis. Just maybe next year Federer will play in the Davis Cup and maybe more people will care.