Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2017 edition of the Davis Cup.
In what is annually maybe the most underappreciated moment of the tennis season, the Davis Cup got underway this past weekend.
It was only the first round, sure, but still. Have you ever been to a Davis Cup match? You’d agreed about the statement at the top of this article if you have because whereas the typical tennis match atmosphere is a little, erm, subdued… the average Davis Cup match is anything but. If you’re Canadian and watching Canada play, it’s encouraged—nay, it’s almost demanded—that you cheer on your compadres. Because the guy from Czech Republic that’s sitting next to you sure is cheering loud.
The Davis Cup is the one time where tennis isn’t always so bent-out-of-shape in making you respect its etiquette, and allows you to feel more like you would if you were at a hockey game. Cheer on, sit back, and enjoy a beer or two, won’t you?
But that’s not why we’re here. And neither are we here for a Davis Cup history primer, though there is a fair bit of history to learn if you’re so inclined. (The broad strokes: it started in 1900 between USA and Great Britain and now includes 135 different countries. USA leads the way with 32 titles, and Australia isn’t far behind with 28. No one else has more than 10.)
Instead, let’s offer the reader a 2017 Davis Cup preview by running through the quarterfinals match-ups.
Italy vs Belgium
You never know what you might get with a Team Italy led by Fabio Fognini but against a tricky Argentine team—playing without the injured 🙁 🙁 Juan Martin Del Potro—we get a good enough version. Belgium, meanwhile, was the favourite in its matchup against Germany—though on paper, maybe the roles should have been reversed: top-ranked Belgian Steve Darcis, at No. 58, narrowly edged out lowest-ranked German Jan-Lennard Struff, at No. 59. And still, Belgium won the tie 4-1. Look out for Belgium!
Prediction: Belgium 4-1
Australia vs USA
Both the United States and Australia made quick work of two opponents who seemed like formidable foes on paper in, respectively, Switzerland and Czech Republic. But a closer look reveals that the US’ 5-0 win wasn’t surprising considering that youngster Henri Laaksonen was the top Swiss player at No. 127, and No. 31-ranked Steve Johnson the worst American. Australia, meanwhile, beat a Czech Republic team without Tomas Berdych, though apparently the future belongs to them regardless of who they play.
Prediction: USA 3-2
France vs Great Britain
By the end of the season, should nothing drastic change before then, don’t be surprised if France ends up winning this year’s Davis Cup: the team overwhelmed a young and green Japan team here, with veterans Richard Gasquet and Giles Simon notching singles win and the world’s top doubles team of Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert doing the same in their match. The French are balanced and experienced. Great Britain, meanwhile, saw its 3-2 win over Canada cut short when Denis Shapovalov belted a ball that inadvertently struck the chair umpire in the face. That it was an accident didn’t matter, and Canada was disqualified. For Great Britain, a win with only Daniel Evans and Kyle Edmund playing singles should be encouraging.
Prediction: France 4-1
Serbia vs Spain
Serbia waltzed into the quarterfinals with leading man Novak Djokovic only needing to play and win one match, and this has to be considered a success. This squad seemingly can get a win over just about anyone by throwing in the world’s second best player for two singles matches if needed, then letting doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic take care of the doubles match. They might need to against a deep Spain squad that had a little difficulty against a relatively weak Croatian team—even without Rafael Nadal, Spain sports three players ranked between 16 and 33, as well as doubles specialist Marco Lopez.
Prediction: Spain 3-2
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG