Davis Cup 2015: Djokovic, Murray, Nishikori, Raonic lead national hopes

Marianne Bevis takes a look ahead to the first round of the 2015 Davis Cup, with a host of tennis' top names in action

When it comes to one of world’s biggest team sport competitions—and the Davis Cup this year features 126 nations—having the best players in the world among your number is a very much a double-edged sword.

The No2-ranked Switzerland boasts Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka among its number, but having won their country’s first title last December, and with a combined tally of 25 years’ service, 49 ties and 117 rubbers to their names, they are taking time out to focus on personal targets—and Switzerland has no-one else in the top 200 to carry the flag.

The Czech Republic’s back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 were spearheaded by the committed and consistent top-10 Tomas Berdych, but without him this year, despite some young rising talent on the Czech bench, can this nation remain top of the ranks?

Just ask Spain, which dominated the Davis Cup for a decade with five titles but many of their wealth of top players took time out last year—like Federer, aiming to preserve their over-30s bodies for the main tour—and Spain lost in the World Group play-offs to be relegated into the Zone Groups for the first time in almost 20 years.

Countries like Argentina, so near winning the title so often, has struggled since the retirement of charismatic David Nalbandian and a catalogue of injuries for Juan Martin del Potro.

This week, Croatia will seriously miss US Open champion Marin Cilic, also injured, and Belgium may open the door a crack for Switzerland without their injured top-20 player David Goffin.

And two nations playing in this weekend’s World Group Round 1 ties show how tough it is for their elite players to spread themselves across ATP, Grand Slam and Davis Cup demands. Kei Nishikori has a couple of compatriots arriving over the horizon but the young Japanese star was largely responsible for Japan’s return to the top tier in 2011 after 26 years in the Asia/Oceania Group 1.

Andy Murray, through almost a decade of Cup involvement, has suffered criticism when he has missed ties for GB, though his argument that he could not carry the team on his own was more than valid. That he has played three rubbers in recent ties to help GB back to the World Group quarter-finals for the first time since 1986 speaks much for his importance and his commitment.

So it is that Serbia will be delighted to have its own famous son back in the fold this season after taking a year out. He gave much credit to his involvement in Serbia’s victory in 2010 for his remarkable season of 2011… and is perhaps ready to taste that patriotic fervour again.

As it happens, Serbia against Croatia is one of a clutch of particularly intense national rivalries in this year’s first round. Hosts Serbia and Djokovic are odds-on favourites not just because of Cilic’s absence but also that of Croats Ivo Karlovic and Ivan Dodig.

Andy Murray headlines the oldest rivalry in Davis Cup history, as GB takes on the USA, just as it did in the first ever Cup tie in 1900. This will be their 20th meeting.

The super-powered nine-time champions France take on neighbours Germany, who bring with them a seven-match losing streak.

And from South America, another rivalry of giant proportions between Brazil and Argentina, though they have never met in the World Group before. Four times runner-up, the Argentines last lost to Brazil in 1975—but this time could be different.

Runners and riders

Germany (13) vs France (3)
Venue: Fraport Arena, Frankfurt (hard indoor)

• The Germans have not defeated their European counterparts since 1938
• Germany hopes to reach the quarter-finals for the second year running—they lost to France at that stage last year having led 2-0
• France is nine-time champion and runner-up last year in its 17th final
• Germany has won the title three times, most recently 1993
• The winner will next face GB or USA

Friday, 1pm GMT
R1 Jan-Lennard Struff vs Gilles Simon
R2 Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Gael Monfils

Saturday, noon GMT
R3 Benjamin Becker/Andre Begemann vs Julien Benneteau/Nicolas Mahut

Sunday, noon GMT
R4 Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Gilles Simon
R5 Jan-Lennard Struff vs Gael Monfils

Serbia (4) vs Croatia (14)
Venue: Kraljevo Sports Centre, Kraljevo (hard indoor)

• Serbia beat Croatia in their only previous meeting en route to title in 2010
• Croatia has also won before, in 2005
• Djokovic is bidding to extend seven-match streak in singles dating back to 2011 semis
• Winner plays Brazil or Argentina

Friday, 12 noon GMT
R1 Novak Djokovic vs Mate Delic
R2 Viktor Troicki vs Borna Coric

Saturday, 1pm GMT
R3 Viktor Troicki/Nenad Zimonjic vs Marin Draganja/Franko Skugor

Sunday, noon GMT
R4 Novak Djokovic vs Borna Coric
R5 Viktor Troicki vs Mate Delic

GB (11) vs USA (8)
Venue: Emirates Arena, Glasgow (hard indoor)
• This is 20th meeting between Davis Cup’s two founding nations
• Great Britain bidding to defeat USA on home soil for the first time since 1935
• USA leads the head-to-head 11-8
• GB has been champion nine times, most recently 1936
• GB only nation to compete in all Davis Cups since 1900
• USA playing in 283rd tie, most for any nation
• USA won its 32nd Cup in 2007
• If GB wins, it will host either Germany or France

Friday, 1pm GMT
R1 Andy Murray vs Donald Young
R2 James Ward vs John Isner

Saturday, 1pm GMT
R3 Dominic Inglot/Jamie Murray vs Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan

Sunday, 1pm GMT
R4 Andy Murray vs John Isner
R5 James Ward vs Donald Young

Czech Rep (1) vs Australia (15)
Venue: Cez Arena, Ostrava (hard indoor)

• Czechs have lost six of the seven meetings between these two nations
• Czech Republic plays host to Australia for the first time since competing an independent nation
• Czechs have won the trophy three times, Australia 28
• Winner plays Italy or Kazakhstan

Friday, 2.30pm GMT
R1 Lukas Rosol vs Thanasi Kokkinakis
R2 Jiri Vesely vs Bernard Tomic

Saturday, 12.30pm GMT
R3 Jan Mertl/Adam Pavlasek vsLleyton Hewitt/Samuel Groth

Sunday, 12.30pm GMT
R4 Lukas Rosol vs Bernard Tomic
R5 Jiri Vesely vs Thanasi Kokkinakis

Kazakhstan (10) vs Italy (7)
Venue: National Tennis Centre, Astana (hard indoor)

• This is first meeting between the two nations
• Kazakhstan and Italy both aiming for quarter-finals for third straight year
• Italy won the trophy in 1976 and has been runner-up six further times
• Winner will play Czech Republic or Australia

Friday, 6am GMT
R1 Mikhail Kukushkin vs Simone Bolelli
R2 Andrey Golubev vs Andreas Seppi

Saturday, 8am GMT
R3 Andrey Golubev/Aleksandr Nedovyesov vs Fabio Fognini/Paolo Lorenzi

Sunday, 8am GMT
R4 Mikhail Kukushkin vs Andreas Seppi
R5 Andrey Golubev vs Simone Bolelli

Argentina (5) vs Brazil (17)
Venue: Tecnopolis, Buenos Aires (clay outdoor)

• Brazil has not defeated Argentina since 1975, so aiming to end run of four defeats
• First meeting between rivals since 1980
• Argentina four-time runner-up, the most without winning the title
• Brazil is a two-time semi-finalist
• Winner plays Serbia or Croatia

Friday, 2pm GMT
R1 Carlos Berlocq vs Joao Souza
R2 Leonardo Mayer vs Thomaz Bellucci

Saturday, 4pm GMT
R3 Federico Delbonis/Diego Schwartzmann vs Marcelo Melo/Bruno Soares

Sunday, 2pm GMT
R4 Leonardo Mayer vs Joao Souza
R5 Carlos Berlocq vs Thomaz Bellucci

Canada (9) v Japan (12)
Venue: Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, Vancouver (hard indoor)

• Canada and Japan go head-to-head in a repeat of last year’s Round 1 clash
• Japan extended its lead over Canada to 6-0 in Tokyo last year
• Canada bidding to win just its third World Group tie, having reached semis in 2013
• Raonic has won 10 of last 11 singles rubbers
• Winner plays Switzerland or Belgium

Canada [draw awaited]
Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, Frank Dancevic, Daniel Nestor
Japan
Kei Nishikori, Go Soeda, Tatsuma Ito, Yasutaka Uchiyama

Belgium (16) v Switzerland (2)
Venue: Country Hall du Sart Tilman, Liege (hard indoor)

• Defending champions Swiss are without either Federer or Wawrinka, though Goffin is also missing from Belgium
• Countries meeting for eighth time, with Swiss leading 4-3
• Switzerland not lost on Belgian soil since first meeting in 1932

Friday, 1pm GMT
R1 Ruben Bemelmans vs Henri Laaksonen
R2 Steve Darcis vs Michael Lammer

Saturday, 1pm GMT
R3 Ruben Bemelmans/Neils Desein vs Adrien Bossel/Michael Lammer

Sunday, 12.30 GMT
R4 Steve Darcis vs Henri Laaksonen
R5 Ruben Bemelmans vs Michael Lammer

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