Davis Cup: Semifinal Preview

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Davis Cup: Semifinal Preview
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Davis Cup Preview:

Playing for one's country often brings out the best level of play from the world's greatest tennis players. With the Davis Cup World Group competition shaved down to four elite teams, this weekend's action in France and Serbia should bring forth some exhilarating storylines.

Fresh off of his great run in New York, Novak Djokovic will quickly head to Serbia in order to aid his country toward their first ever Davis Cup final. Squaring off against a fresh Czech team, Djokovic and company will have to dig deep in order to survive.

The indoor facility in Lyon, France will host the weekend's second World Group tie.

Played on a slick, indoor, hard-court surface, the French team, led by Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet, will be in tough against the never-say-die Argentines. Top-ranked Argentine David Nalbandian has publicly made it clear that his career goal is to hoist the Davis Cup title, and he'll be joined in his quest by consistent baseline player Juan Monaco.

Let's now take a look at the respective semifinal World Group ties, as well as outlining the World Group playoff match ups.

France vs. Argentina—Palais des Sports de Gerland, Lyon

France leads Argentina 4-0 in career ties.

Team Captain for France: Guy Forget

Team Captain for Argentina: Tito Vazquez

The always dangerous Frenchmen will be playing in their second straight tie at home. With Monfils, Gasquet, and Michael Llodra pulling in quality performances at the U.S. Open, the transition to the enclosed court in Lyon should be favorable.

Monfils could become the X-factor in this contest, depending on his mindset. Forgetting how to compete against Djokovic during their quarterfinal contest at the Open, Monfils will have to put forth a better effort in front of his local fans. Gasquet and Llorda have also endured up and down seasons, but both players rebounded nicely to win a few matches in the Big Apple.

Llodra will likely be Forget's singles choice alongside Monfils, while Gasquet and Gilles Simon could take over for Saturday's doubles rubber.

David Nalbandian will likely have to win both of his singles matches—just like he did in Russia—in order for his squad to advance. The doubles tandem of Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos did reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open, but their loopy strokes and slower serves will not be favored on the indoor surface.

Taking into account the variables of the court and Llodra's serve and volley expertise, I'd say that France has a slight advantage in this tie.

Although Nalbandian will be tough to beat, he'll need some help from his amigos if he's to advance. Unless Nalbandian takes part in Saturday's doubles action, I'm not entirely convinced that Argentina can survive with Schwank and Zeballos pairing up on Saturday.

This tie should provide some great cat and mouse dialogue for the near 6,000 in attendance.

Pick: France wins 3-2.

Serbia vs. Czech Republic—Belgrade Arena, Belgrade

First time meeting.

Team Captain for Serbia: Bogdan Obradovic

Team Captain for Czech Republic: Jaroslav Navratil

Highlighted by a fatigued Serbian team versus a fresh Czech Republic squad, the weekend's second World Group semifinal could be the most compelling.

Where Djokovic will be beaming with confidence from his stellar run in New York, one has to question the transition that he'll take from court surfaces to countries when gearing up for this tie.

Djokovic was put through the ringer in reaching the finals at the U.S. Open, and he'll be hard-pressed to recover in time for his matches. Viktor Troicki, who almost defeated Djokovic in the first round of the Open, holds a powerful game, but has struggled with confidence issues throughout his career.

Janko Tipsarevic also put forth a respectable march in New York by defeating Andy Roddick in the second round, but a recent ankle injury could hinder his court coverage.

Doubles dynamo Nenad Zimonjic should be able to keep up his end of the bargain, but he'll need a worthy partner in order to prevail.

The Czech team will be entering this weekend's action full of promise.

With Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Jan Hajek, and Ivo Minar either losing in the first round of the Open or failing to qualify, the physically fresher Czech Republic team will be favored. Reaching the finals of last year's Davis Cup competition before losing to Spain, Berdych and Stepanek could end up playing the entire weekend.

With Djokovic being spent, and Berdych and Stepanek in fresher form, an upset at home for the Czechs appears more than likely.

Tipsarevic could prove to be Serbia's saving grace in this tie, but he'll have to engage in the similar go-for-broke mentally that he showed against Roddick in New York.

All in all, taking into account Djokovic's late arrival to Serbia, coupled by the Czech Republic's rested squad, I'm more inclined to pick a repeat run for the Berdych led team.

Look for the crowd to be involved in a major way in this tie, but it may not be enough considering the variables that have been presented.

Pick: Czech Republic wins 3-2.

World Group Playoffs

Israel vs. Austria (Begins September 16)
Nokia Stadium, Tel Aviv
Hard – Indoors

Colombia vs. United States
Plaza de Toros La Santamaria , Bogota
Clay – Outdoors

Germany vs. South Africa
TC Weissenhof Stuttgart, Stuttgart
Clay – Outdoors

Sweden vs. Italy
Sparbanken Lidkoping Arena, Lidkopoing
Hard – Indoors

India vs. Brazil
SDAT Tennis Stadium, Chennai
Hard – Outdoors

Australia vs. Belgium
Cairns International Tennis Centre, North Cairns
Hard – Outdoors

Kazakhstan vs. Switzerland
The National Tennis Centre, Astana
Hard – Indoors

Romania vs. Ecuador
Centrul National de Tenis, Bucharest
Clay – Outdoors

Americas Zone Group

Canada vs. Dominican Republic
Rexall Center, Canada
Hard- Outdoor


Players: Peter Polansky, Frank Dancevic, Milos Raonic, and Daniel Nestor.

Team Captain: Martin Laurendeau

Dominican Republic

Players: Jhonson Garcia, Victor Estrella, Luis Delgado, and Jose Hernandez

Team Captain: Rafael Moreno

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