France, third on the list of previous champions, may not have won since 2001, but it is a rare year that this strong tennis nation is not in contention. Runners-up on eight occasions, the French lost to Switzerland in the final in 2014, made the quarters in 2015 and the semis last year. With five men in the top 30, along with the two top-ranked doubles players, it is a rare tie that does not boast a formidable line-up. Even on away ground in Japan, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon were too much for a squad without its only top-80 player, Kei Nishikori—and then Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert sealed the tie in a swift three sets on the second day of action.
Australia is second only to the USA in title victories, 28 of them, but has not won through a lean 15 years. However, with a clutch of young talent at its disposal, playing at home, and facing a Czech Republic without Tomas Berdych at the helm, Australia was the first nation to seal its place in the quarter-finals after 22-year-old Jordan Thompson and 21-year-old Nick Kyrgios won their singles rubbers, and Grand Slam doubles champion John Peers teamed up with Sam Groth to grab the doubles rubber, too, 3-0.
Serbia, the only team in the World Group to feature one of tennis’s top men in world No2 Novak Djokovic, also went through to the quarters by the end of the second day of action. Djokovic found himself in something of an unexpected dogfight against one of Russia’s rising prospects, 20-year-old Daniil Medvedev, losing the first set, but the Serbian super-star quickly righted the ship in the second and third sets before the young Russian was forced to retire injured in the fourth.
It was, though, the 37-ranked Viktor Troicki who really shone for Serbia. He faced the big, talented Karen Khachanov, another of the stars of the future being nurtured by Russia, plus 27 aces, before edging a thriller in a final-set tie-break after four and a half hours. A day later, Troicki was back with veteran doubles Grand Slam champion Nenad Zimonjic for another three hours, sealing the tie in four sets.
By the end of Day 2, one more tie was done and dusted: an underpowered Switzerland without Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka was always going to struggle against the most prolific winning nation in Davis Cup history, the USA. The home team of Jack Sock, John Isner and Steve Johnson, with a reserve Sam Querrey in the wings, are all in the top 30, and the team dropped just one set through the three opening rubbers. It is a decade since the USA won its 32nd Davis Cup, but this strong squad now faces the charismatic Australian team in the quarters.
The remaining four ties remain in the balance. Great Britain edged a 2-1 lead away to Canada after pulling out a tricky doubles rubber. Daniel Evans will face Vasek Pospisil in the fourth rubber after beating the teenager Denis Shapovalov, while Kyle Edmund will hope to regain the poor form that dogged his opening match in Ottawa should Evans fail to seal the win.
Should Great Britain make the quarters, they will meet one of their oldest rivals, France, bringing with them a 12-9 advantage. Their most recent, highly memorable encounter was in 2015, on Queen’s grass, where GB won on the way to winning the title at the end of the year.
Belgium, finalists in that same year, continue to punch above their weight this year. Even without their star player, David Goffin, they have stolen a lead against a strong German squad after Steve Darcis beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in a fifth set tie-break and then the unfancied doubles pairing of Ruben Bemelmans and Joris de Loore beat the Zverev brothers, Sascha and Mischa, also in a fifth set.
In Argentina, too, the reigning champions pulled one rubber back against Italy in the doubles, yet again in a fifth-set tie-break, while the fancied Spanish squad found themselves 1-2 down to a below-strength Croatia, when the Lopez pairing of Marc and Feliciano were surprise losers to Marin Draganja and Nikola Mektic. The winning nation will face Serbia in the quarter-finals.
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news