Anybody who knows me, knows I am a tennis fanatic. I love to watch Tennis. I have been known to skip class and sometimes work (only once and I had to use my sick time anyway or I'll lose it) to watch it. I have lost sleep over this sport (Thank You Australia's time difference) and travelled to major Europe cities to watch only tennis (Paris, and we did see the Lourve so we did get our tourist on) and slept on pavement to watch matches (every sports fan should queue overnight to get Wimbledon tickets. One of the best sports experiences EVER!) So yeah, I really love Tennis! One of my favorite events in Davis Cup. It's an yearly event that pits Country against Country for top honor. Unlike regular tournament's, in which players are individuals playing against each other, Davis Cup is a team sport. They play five matches, 2 singles matches Friday, 1 doubles on Saturday and then 2 more singles matches on Sunday. The Country that wins three or more of those matches wins. To me it is a sporting experience like no other. You think tennis, you think club sport. You must be polite and quiet between points but Davis Cup is loud and raucous! Fans are expected to be on their feet cheering, chanting and holding up signs. I've never been to a World Cup Soccer game but it's kind of like that but more intimate. Fans dress up in face paint and wear their nations flags as capes. They bang drums and bells and jump and down. The US team even has their own pep band! So, like I said it's not the typical tennis tournament. The only problem with the Davis Cup is how hard it is too follow. This weekend is the first round of the World Group. Sixteen Countries are playing in eight different countries to try to advance to the next round which won't be played until July. I think this is kind of an improvement of years past when the first two rounds are played in February and April and then Semifinals are not until five months later in September. At least this year they are more evenly spread out but still they play for one weekend and then nothing for another couple of months. It's hard to keep any kind of momentum after that but it is what it is. You have to work to follow Davis Cup but it's so worth it if you do.
So let's talk about those ties going on this week starting off with the one that I am the most interested in. USA vs. Switzerland. This was supposed to be the big showdown between Roger Federer and the USA team but sadly, Federer pulled out with a back injury. So the tie went from being a pretty even tie to the US being a huge favorite to win. Not having Federer there is good and bad for the US. The good of course is that it makes it much easier for the US team to advance. None of the US players has a very good record against Federer (but then again besides Nadal and Murray, who does?) The bad is that it would have been a good test for the US players. Federer is a better player then Andy Roddick or James Blake but I truly believe that in a pro-US crowd, would give both and advantage. If there was ever a venue that Roddick and Blake could beat Federer it would be in Davis Cup. Federer would also have played doubles with Stanislas Wawrinka against Mike and Bob Bryan. The Bryan's have lost one match in Davis Cup play but Federer and Wawrinka won the Olympic Gold in doubles, so they are not push overs. Sadly we will never know how it would have turned out if Federer had been healthy to play but Switzerland's loss and the USA's gain. USA will win 4-1
Spain-Serbia Spain playing in Spain is pretty much unbeatable. They are the current Davis Cup Champions and have a formidable team. World #1 Rafeal Nadal, David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez. All are top 10 or former top 10 players and the crazy thing is that they are missing Fernando Verdasco, who was one of the hottest players on the tour this year but now is injured. Serbia has #3 Novak Djokovic. Since winning the Australian Open last year he has been up and down but may have found his stride after winning Dubai (Grr...) last week but I don't think he alone is going to be enough to beat the Spanish team. He would have to win all three matches, he has a chance against Ferrer and maybe in Doubles but it's hard to pick Nadal, no matter who he's playing. Spain 3-2
Czech Republic - France This one could go all the way. On paper the French team is probably the strongest, with the likes of J0-Wilfred Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet but they are unproven in Davis Cup. The Czech Republic has two good players in Radek Stepanek, and Tomas Berdych. Stepanek has already won 2 tournaments this year and is playing the best tennis of his career at age 30. Berdych is a talented player that was once thought of being the next big thing in tennis but never quite made it. He beat Federer at the Athens Games in 2004 and has had some good results since then but mostly has done nothing. It will probably be the most competitive tie of the eight. I'm not sure who to go with here but I feel if I'm playing pundit I have to pick someone so France 3-2.
Croatia - Chile The winner of this tie will play the winner of the USA-Switzerland tie so instead of looking at the tie itself I'm going to look at who will be best for the US, if they should win. Croatia has played the USA twice and has won twice. Not a very good stat and unfortunately it doesn't get better. If both Croatia and the US win, then in July the US has to travel to Croatia. Eek. On the other hand, the US has never lost to Chile but the last time they played was in 1996. Back then Chile didn't have Fernando Gonzalez or Nicolas Massu. If both Chile and USA were to win the US would have to travel to Chile and we all know what that means. Clay. Roddick, Blake, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and Robby Ginepri do not play well on clay. Querrey is ok but really none of the US players like Clay, except the Bryan Brothers but they play well on all surfaces. So who do you go with. The team we have never beaten or the team we have never lost to but has better players now and will undoubtedly put us on our least favorite surface. I'll go with Croatia. I really don't like the idea of our boys playing on South American Clay and anyways, we must avenge those two losses to Croatia. Croatia 4-1
Sweden - Israel This tie is currently being played with no fans. That's right no fans. The Swedish were worried they would be protest against the Israel and after recent events who can blame them but a Davis Cup tie without fans? Is just wrong. I understand they want to protect their players, fans as well as the Israelis but I feel they have gone a bit overboard here. What's the point of playing a Davis Cup without the screaming fans? Especially in Sweden. The Swede's have the most colorful fans in the world. Viking hats, do I have to say more? Anyway, politics aside, this tie is rip for an upset. The Swedes are like the comeback team. They have Thomas Johannson and Joachim Johansson (no relation) playing. Both former shells of who they are. I think the Israeli team can take advantage of the weakened team and win. Israel 3-2.
Romania - Russia The Russian team is already up 2 matches to none in this tie. It was pretty much won before the first ball was hit. The Russians have Mikhail Youzhney, Marat Safin, and Dimitry Tursonov. Romania's biggest name is their captain Andrei Pavel. I think Romania will be pleased just to win a match. Russia 5-0.
Germany - Austria This is another tie that could go either way. The German team has two players that I wasn't even sure if they were still playing or not, Rainer Schuettler and Nicolas Kiefer. The Austrians have Jurgen Melzer, who is a talented player but not known for his mental toughness and Stefan Koubek, a solid player but not really anything special. I do think the Austrians are a slightly stronger team. Austria 3-2
Argentina - the Netherlands Like the Russian's, Argentina won this match before it began. The Netherlands have no one of real note on their team and Argentina, the losing finalists from last year doesn't even have their best players but still have a strong team with Juan Monaco and Juan Ignacio Chela. This one is easy. Argentina 5-0
So, they you have it. I'm sure I'll get some wrong but as long as the USA beats the clocks out of Switzerland (Get it, Clocks? Lame, I know) then I'll be happy.