The first weekend of Davis Cup for 2016 is here, later than the past few years. And for some reason it seems a bit awkward in an Olympic. But most of the top players are turning out for the countries this weekend, so an exciting weekend of tennis awaits.
Japan at Great Britain: Could this be a second successive year where the defending champions are knocked out on the opening weekend? The burden will certainly be on (Andy) Murray to deliver. And the doubles with his brother has turned out to be a strength for the Brits as well. While it's feasible to see Nishikori upset Murray, I doubt Japan can win the doubles, and Edmund has improved enough to actually outrank the Japanese #2 Daniel. GBR 3 JPN 1
Kazakhstan at Serbia: The Kazakhs have won at Czech Republic (with Berdych) along with several other upsets they've pulled. (They've made the quarters the last 3 years and 4 of 5.) But going against the world no. 1 is a different animal. Troicki also outranks Kukushkin by more than 50 places, and Golubev is now outside the top 200. They may pull an upset in one rubber but they're winning this tie. SRB 3 KAZ 1
Switzerland at Italy: Fognini is skipping this tie but so are Federer and Wawrinka after their 2014 title so Italy with Seppi, Lorenzi, and Bolelli is heavy favorites against Chiudinelli and Laaksonen. The "lesser" Swiss generally come to play in Davis Cup but Italy has too many weapons. ITA 3 SUI 0
Argentina at Poland: Poland is making its World Group debut and with Janowicz, Kubot, and Matkowski will have a chance against Mayer, the in form Pella, and Berlocq. But unless we see an improved Janowicz, I fear heartbreak for the hosting Poles. Mayer can play on hards and Pella has had a good run (albeit on clay) in South America. This might go 5, but I don't even recognize the Polish #2, who just 20 - Majchrzak. ARG 3 POL 2
Canada at France: France taking its tennis to the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe is pretty cool in my opinion, and the islanders will likely be impressed. Roanic would have made this a competitive but he and Nestor have both pulled out. The French Big 4 aren't in the greatest form but Tsonga, Gasquet, Simon, and Monfils should be able to breeze past Pospisil, Dancevic and company. FRA 3 CAN 0
Czech Republic at Germany: Berdych and Stepanek are back on the Czech roster, which automatically gives them the doubles point, among other things. Berdych may very well get all 3 points as I don't expect too much resistance from Kohlschreiber and Zverev or Brown. The Czechs also have serviceable #2 singles from Vesely or Rosol, so I expect they'll prevail fairly easily. CZE 3 GER 1
United States at Australia: This was set to be likely the most competitive tie until Kyrgios was forced to pull out, because let's face it, Isner and Sock would certainly rather play Groth. Tomic might both his singles matches but the Bryans are likely going to win the doubles. Isner played well in Australia prior to his disastrous experiment on South American clay, but I'm not so sure Sock was the pick here rather than the red hot Querrey. That said, I do like Sock over Groth in a live 5th rubber and there's certainly the chance Isner beats Tomic. USA 3 AUS 2
Croatia at Belgium: The Cilic Coric combination will be in action for the visiting Croats while Belgium has only one top 100 player in Goffin. The doubles will be important and Croatia has Dodig to play. I think Goffin may be able to get his two singles wins at home, but that may only set up Coric for Davis Cup glory over Coppejans or Bemelmans. CRO 3 BEL 2
(It might be a bit optimistic to see 3 live 5th rubbers in these ties, and I've got the visitors winning all three.)
Europe/Africa Zonal Group I
Slovenia at Romania (winner plays Spain): No one ranked inside the top 150, I like Romania because they're at home and have a good doubles team (Mergea/Tecau)
Austria at Portugal (winner plays Ukraine): Portugal with an odd surface choice in indoor hard, but Thiem has recently won titles on clay and hard, so it may not matter. The Portuguese will likely need to work around him to win this tie, but Peya in the mix for Austrian doubles, Sousa and the in form Elias have an uphill fight.
Sweden at Russia (winner plays Netherlands): The Ymer brothers are not playing so there are no Swedes in the top 600, meaning they're heavy underdogs (except for doubles) versus Gabashvili and the in form Kuznetsov.
Israel at Hungary (winner plays Slovakia): The Israelis have two top 200 players and lots of experience. They should be able to take care business on the road.
Americas Zonal Group I
Barbados at Ecuador (winner plays Brazil): King and Lewis give it another go for Barbados against the "how old is he" Lapentti?
Dominican Republic at Chile (winner plays Colombia): Unfortunately my boy Estrella Burgos has pulled out so Chile's relative depth should be able to defeat Hernandez and the Dominicans.
Asia/Pacific Zonal Group I
New Zealand at South Korea (winner plays India): Chung leads the Koreans in what should be a blowout.
China vs Pakistan in Sri Lanka (winner plays Uzbekistan): Qureshi is now the playing captain (alongside Khan) as the Pakistanis play their first Group I tie in 10 years. The Chinese probably going to be a little much for them.
Europe/Africa Zonal Group II
Norway at Lithuania - Berankis is playing
Luxembourg at South Africa - no Muller
Bulgaria at Turkey - Ilhan is there but no Dimitrov
Tunisia at Bosnia & Herzegovina - could be a good tie, no Dzumhur but Basic/Jaziri matchup of 2 top 150 players
Monaco at Latvia - no Gulbis
Belarus at Egypt
Zimbabwe at Finland - Nieminen prolonging retirement for this home tie
Denmark at Georgia - potential Basilashvili/Nielsen matchup
Americas Zonal Group II
Uruguay at Peru - no P.Cuevas
Guatemala at Mexico
Puerto Rico at El Salvador
Paraguay at Venezuela
Asia/Pacific Zonal Group II
Malaysia at Taiwan - Lu is playing, Taiwan heavy favorites
Kuwait at Philippines
Vietnam at Indonesia
Sri Lanka at Thailand
Europe Zonal Group III
This round robin style group got underway today and the story is that Baghdatis tied Borg today for consecutive Davis Cup wins (granted the Cypriot's have come the lower levels of the Davis Cup echelon, but good for him for still showing up)
Pool A - Malta, Moldova (with Albot), San Marino
Pool B - Albania, Armenia, Ireland, Macedonia
Pool C - Andorra, Cyprus (with Baghdatis), Iceland, Montenegro
Pool D - Estonia, Greece, Kosovo (Davis Cup debut), Liechtenstein
Enjoy the weekend!