This weekend saw the first round of the Davis Cup 2014 draw to a close with some great displays of tennis, and some even better talking points. Giving us a review of the weekend’s action is Eoin Lyons.
Czech Republic 3 – 2 Netherlands
The 2012 and 2013 champions secured a closer than foreseeable win over Netherlands this weekend, and remain unbeaten in Davis Cup ties since 2011. A surprising opening game saw the usually consistent Radek Stepanek defeated by Robin Haase. Although Haase is ranked four places above Stepanek in singles rankings, many thought Stepanek would come out on top after winning the first set 6 – 3. The saviour for the Czechs of course, was world number 7, Tomas Berdych. The Czechs top seed proved his worth, winning both of his singles ties without dropping a set, and only dropping one set in the doubles pairing. After a slightly shaky start, it will be up to Stepanek and Rosol to up their game in future ties, as Berdych cannot be asked to save them every time.
Japan 4 – 1 Canada
Although the Japanese have never lost to Canada in the Davis Cup, the Canadians were impressive in 2013, narrowly missing out on a place in the final after defeat to Serbia. Heading in to this tie, it was tough to call a winner. The Canadians were slightly weaker than planned however, as Milos Raonic was unavailable to play. They inevitably suffered, as the only top 20 player in the battle, Kei Nishikori, set the bar and remained consistent throughout to win all his matches. Frank Dancevic did have an impressive win over Go Soeda, however it proved to be moot as the Japanese took all of the remaining match-ups. Japan play Czech Republic in the next round, and while it may be difficult to knock the Czechs out, it’s certainly not impossible.
Germany 4 – 1 Spain
When the draw for this year’s Davis Cup World Group was released, many would have thought that a home draw for Spain would almost warrant a bye in to the next round. What nobody knew though, was that Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicholas Almagro would all be unavailable for the tie against Germany. The second string Spanish outfit were simply not good enough to overcome the Germans, who fought hard to knock the Spanish out of the competition, with two very impressive five set matches included in the action. In a tie that was much less exciting than initially predicted, Phillip Kohlschreiber was the most impressive player of the tie, contributing to two of Germany’s four wins that got that them through to the next round.
France 5 – 0 Australia
There is no denying that France made themselves the ones to watch this year with a stunning display, giving them the only clean sweep of the opening stages. While nobody expected Australia to overcome the French outfit, the quality on show from the French was still enough to cement some fear in the rest of the draw, making France serious contenders to advance to the very end of the tournament. Australia only managed to one set in the entire tie, the opening set in the doubles. The consistency of Gasquet and Benneteau, and the flare of Tsonga and Monfils saw them sail through in entertaining fashion and hinted at an apparent turning of the tide as France have soared above Australia in recent years, in stark contrast to the history of the Australian Davis Cup showings. Arnaud Clement will certainly feel confident for the remaining rounds now, with no complaints from his players.
Great Britain 3 – 1 USA
The most televised tie of the opening round saw Andy Murray and company overcome the Americans in their own back ‘yard’ as they say across the pond. Andy Murray was of course, the top player in the tie, winning the opener against Donald Young and the deciding tie against an overworked Sam Querrey. The real talking point of the match though, was James Ward’s win against the player ranked 126 places higher than him in the rankings, Sam Querrey. The Londoner rose above Querrey in a stunning five set display of tennis and secured a very valuable point in the tie. The only match that the Americans won in the tie was the doubles. The insurmountable Bryan brothers took the match in four sets, but the win was inevitably secured by Andy Murray in the following game. The main talking point of the tie however, may be Jim Courier’s seemingly lack lustre approach to coaching his players.
Italy 3 – 1 Argentina
After a disappointing display of tennis by Andreas Seppi in the opening match of the tie, in which he lost convincingly at the hands of Carlos Berlocq, Fabio Fognini came to the rescue to close out the win for the Italians. The world number 15 proved to be Italy’s most impressive player, dropping only two sets in his three matches. While Carlos Berlocq impressed the home crowd in the Patinodromo Municipal, the Italians proved to be too strong to be defeated. While the Italians did not do enough to strike fear in to the hearts of the rest of the contenders, there is certainly room for improvement and they must not be discounted.
Kazakhstan 3 – 2 Belgium
The 8 versus 17 seedings match-up was certainly not the most eye-grabbing tie when the draw for this year’s World Group Davis Cup First Round was released, the tie did prove to be quite exciting for anyone choosing to follow it. Only one of the five matches was decided within three sets, in which Andrey Golubev secured the deciding match to give the Kazakhs the win. Golubev was also involved in the pick of the matches, a five setter against David Goffin which reached 12 – 10 in the final set before concluding. While Kazakhstan may not be the most intimidating team left in the draw, they cannot be dismissed, considering they have been in the top flight since 2011, and clearly have determination in abundance.
Switzerland 3 – 2 Serbia
Last year’s finalists were drawn against Switzerland in what was bound to be a mouth-watering affair. Coming in to the tournament Swiss confidence was high. Stanislas Wawrinka had just won the Australian Open and is currently sitting in a career-high position of number 3 in the world. Serbian confidence on the other hand, was wilting. The formidable Novak Djokovic was revealed to be unavailable for the tie, and left a gaping hole in the hope of Serbian success. This fear proved to be enough for Switzerland to overcome the Serbians in the least time possible, winning the opening three games. While Serbia did pull back two matches against the remaining two Swiss players, it was too late. I relish to think what may have happened if Novak was around.
Long term predictions for the remainder of the tournament? Switzerland versus France in the final.
Pundit Arena, Eoin Lyons.