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Davis Cup: Preview of the First Weekend

Jakub Bobro

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All the tennis fans know that the upcoming three days will bring us the biggest team competition in men’s tennis- Davis Cup. Many exciting match ups are coming up during these three days and I’ll try to preview them and give you my most educated guess on the winner of each match and each tie. 

 

Great Britain – Japan

The defending champions of Davis Cup will start their 2016 campaign against Japan on their home soil, at the indoor hard courts of Birmingham. Both teams brought their top 10 players (Murray, Nishikori) for this tie, making it really attractive for the viewing audience. Great Britain had to deal with a withdrawal from Kyle Edmund, but they hopefully found a good replacement in Daniel Evans. Taro Daniel is scheduled to be Japan’s No. 2. Overall, I predict Great Britain to take the win 3-1, with Andy Murray winning both of his matches in singles, and for Great Britain to take the doubles rubber.

Serbia – Kazakhstan

Novak Djokovic is leading the Serbian charge against Kazakhstan in Belgrade. Serbia is definitely the favorite in this tie, as both Djokovic and Troicki will be the higher ranked in their matches against Nedovyesov and Kukushkin respectively. There were question marks over Novak Djokovic, after he retired from Dubai with eye problems. The World No. 1 is also scheduled to appear in the doubles tie with the 40-years old doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic. Djokovic and Zimonjic have already been confirmed as a team that will compete together at the Olympics, and it definitely will be interesting to see them in action together for the first time this year. Their opponents are to be Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev. The team nominations are completed by youngsters on either side, Filip Krajinovic for Serbia, and Dmitry Popko for Kazakhstan. My prediction for this tie is for Serbia to clench the win 3-0, in ‘straight rubbers’. I won’t attempt to predict the ‘dead rubbers’ (rubbers played after one team already won), since players don’t always give their best effort in them and substitutions are bound to be made.

Italy – Switzerland

Both teams are strongly weakened, Italy without Fognini and the Swiss without Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. Italy has a stronger team, with Seppi and Lorenzi being their singles players on the opening day. Switzerland is fielding their two other Top 200 players, Henri Laaksonen and Marco Chiudinelli, for all of their singles and doubles matches. Playing into Italy’s cards is also their choice of surface- clay. If the tie was put on indoor hard courts, the chances for the Swiss would be much higher. The Italians have several choices for their doubles, as Cecchinato and Seppi reached the 3rd round at the Australian Open, but Italy also has Simone Bolelli, who is a Top 20 doubles player. I don’t believe that either Chiudinelli nor Laaksonen have the skills to pull of the upset on clay, in singles or doubles, thus making Italy win 3-0. A more detailed preview can be found here.

Poland – Argentina

There was a lot of curiosity about the court that this tie will be played on at the Ergo Arena in Gdansk. It was called ‘ultra fast’ by the Argentines and ITF was called to check the speed of the court, but it was within the regulations. Although Poland is struck down by injury woes. With Jerzy Janowicz and Kamil Majchrzak having to withdraw, the Polish will not have a Top 300 player in this round. However, both Przysiezny and Hurkacz work very well with a fast indoor court, as the Argentine team of Mayer, Pella, Berlocq and Olivo all prefer clay. However, I still don’t predict an upset on the first day, so both rubbers would be won by Argentina, however the Przysiezny – Pella match will be tough and I expect it to go into 5 sets. Poland has the advantage of a core doubles team of Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, who should defeat any pair of players that should come their way from the Argentine roster. Leonardo Mayer should then seal the deal and take the win home 3-1.

France – Canada

The French made the smart choice of putting the tie on clay, thus slimming the chances of Raonic and Pospisil. I thought that it would backfire on them, that the players who have already fulfilled their Olympic requirements would skip the tie, so they wouldn’t have to change from clay to hard court. However France brought their strongest team of Gasquet, Tsonga, Monfils and Simon, and Canada was the one whose team was weakened by injuries of Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor. These players were replaced by Philipp Bester and Adil Shamasdin. Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon were picked by Yannick Noah for the opening day singles against Vasek Pospisil and Frank Dancevic. The projected doubles teams are Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against Vasek Pospisil and Philipp Bester. I would really be surprised if Canada managed to win a match in this tie, so my prediction is 3-0 for France. However if I had to pick a match in which they would win it, it would be the doubles.

Germany – Czech Republic

Germany really surprised me when they picked Indoor Hard over Indoor Clay. Both countries fielded their best teams for this tie. This tie could truly go either way and it will very much depend on the form of the players on that day. The play will start with Philipp Kohlschreiber against Lukas Rosol. The second match will be played between Alexander Zverev and Tomas Berdych. I wouldn’t be surprised by any results that come off from this day, but my prediction is that Kohlschreiber will win in 5 sets and Berdych will win in 4. In doubles, Dustin Brown and Philipp Petzschner will represent Germany, and Czech Republic will have Jiri Vesely and Radek Stepanek, however I do expect Berdych and Stepanek to play. I expect Czech Republic to win the doubles, and the Berdych to win the tie for the Czech Republic.

Australia – USA

The tie is already underway, however we at Ubitennis have the luxury of having an on-site writer for this tie, and you can find his preview here.

Belgium – Croatia

Last year’s surprise finalist will once again have the opportunity of playing on Indoor Clay at home, this time against Croatia. Both teams are slightly weakened, Belgium is missing Steve Darcis and Croatia will have to deal with the withdrawal of Marin Draganja. First day will offer the match between two young guns, David Goffin and Borna Coric. Marin Cilic will face Kimmer Coppejans in the other match. I predict Goffin and Cilic to take the wins on Day 1, Croatia to win the doubles, Goffin to equal at 2-2 and Borna Coric to finish the tie in the decisive rubber.

[Pictures To Be Added]

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Tennis Stars Voice Concerns Over Staging Tokyo Olympics

After being delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, top players such as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori still have reservations.

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The area around the Olympic Rings and Olympic Stadium - (image via olympics.com)

Japan’s top male tennis player Kei Nishikori has questioned how much preparation the IOC and local officials in his home country has prepared for a ‘worst-case’ scenario of hosting the Olympics. 

 

The four-year event has already been postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some have called for the sporting extravaganza to be scrapped. Recently governors of nine Japanese prefectures said there should be an option to suspend or even cancel the Olympics altogether if cases in the region can’t be kept under control. Three of those governors are in charge of cities set to stage Olympic events. 

Weighing in on the debate, former US Open finalist Nishikori raises doubts over how organisers plan to hold a safe event given the high number of athletes that will be present, which is an estimated 11,000. Japan has already said that overseas fans are banned and international athletes will not be able to bring relatives with them to minimise the risk.

“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”

The world No.45 expresses a view similar to the of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka who said earlier this week that she was ‘not sure’ if the event should go ahead due to the current case numbers.  

“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”

In the latest figures published by health officials, Tokyo reported 925 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which is an increase of almost 400 compared to the previous day. Although Monday figures are usually low due to the closure of testing centres over the weekend. Tuesday’s number is higher compared to this time last week (609 cases) and two weeks ago (828 cases).

Besides the COVID-19 concerns, the prospect of having to go to the Games without a member of family could result in the absence of four-time gold medallist Serena Williams. The former world No.1 says she is undecided on playing the event and hasn’t been separated from her three-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours before.

“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” said Williams.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.
“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”

Besides athlete concerns, Olympic organisers are also facing falling public support. A recent poll conducted by newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that nearly 60% of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled. Furthermore TBS news reported 65% of people surveyed in another poll wanted the event either cancelled or suspended again, with 37% supporting the cancellation and 28% in favour of suspension.

The Olympic tennis event is set to start on July 24th. 

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Top Tennis Tournaments Among 97 Events UK Sport Hopes To Host Over The Next Decade

A plan for the ‘greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments’ in the UK has been published and tennis is among the sports officials are interested in.

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London's O2 Arena, venue of the ATP World Tour Finals between 2009-2020 (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

The government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport within Great Britain has said they could submit an application to host two team tennis events over the next decade.

 

UK Sport has labelled both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup Finals as an ‘opportunity’ for them to host in their 10-year strategic plan which will last until 2021. Overall the country is looking at the possibility of staging 97 events across 44 sports over the next 10 years. Those behind the plan believe such a move could generate a total of £7 billion for the UK economy. A live feasibility study is already underway for bidding to host the 2030 football World Cup, 2026 European Athletic Championships and more.

“Together we have achieved so much in Olympic and Paralympic sport. Nevertheless, we are very aware there is no room for complacency and that we must build on our success to create the next exciting phase of high-performance sport,” UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said in a statement.
“One where we work even more collaboratively and inclusively to keep winning and win well, in ways that will inspire more people and have a broader impact on our society.
“Achieving on the world stage will still sit firmly at the heart of what we do. But we should not underestimate the powerful platform that provides us with, and it is our shared responsibility to better harness this for positive social change.”

When it comes to both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, UK Sport has categorized them as a mega event. Meaning they are ‘seen as the pinnacle of their sport at World level and which have significant staging costs, attract more than 100,000 live spectators, entail considerable delivery complexity and require extensive public funding and guarantee commitments.’ At present they have been labelled as an ‘opportunity’ by the agency. Meaning that no decision to bid to host them has been made yet but remains a good possibility.

The government made no reference to what venues could be used, especially regarding the tennis events which will require more than one court due to the change of the tournament in recent years. The finals of the team events now last for a week or so and are done initially in a group format before turning into a knock-out stage.

This year’s Davis Cup finals are taking place across three European cities. However, the women’s equivalent remains in doubt after the ITF ended their contract with the Hungarian Tennis Association who were meant to be holding the event. Hungary recently sent a letter saying it was no longer feasible to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK is best known for its staging of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships, as well as other grass-court events. Furthermore, it also experienced great success in hosting the ATP Finals between 2009-2020 which attracted more than 2.8 million visitors during that period.

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Davis Cup Finals To Become Three-City Event From 2021

Austria and Italy join Spain in hosting the finale of the men’s team competition.

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The International Tennis Federation has approved a plan to transform the Davis Cup finals into a three-city event with it taking place over a longer duration.

 

Starting from 2021 the finals of the 121-year-old men’s team competition will be held across three European venues which are set to have ‘similar conditions.’ Madrid, who hosted the event back in 2019, will remain the location for both the semi-finals and finals. Additionally, Turin in Italy and Innsbruck in Austria will co-host the event with each of them staging two of the six groups, as well as one quarter-final.

The development is the latest change made by the ITF in partnership with Kosmos, who have pledged to invest $3 billion in the sport over a 25-year period. Kosmos is the key driving force being the recent transformation of the competition and was founded by footballer Gerard Pique.

“The proposals announced in January were aimed at providing a better schedule for players while bringing the competition to new audiences and improving the experience for fans. Following a thorough bid process, we are delighted to be able to confirm Innsbruck and Turin as co-hosts alongside Madrid. We are confident that, together, they will deliver an outstanding world championship event for players and fans alike.” ITF Senior Executive Director, Professional Tennis, Kris Dent, said in a statement.

As a result of Turin’s and Innsburk’s inclusion in the finals, the competition has been extended from seven days to 11 days. A total of 18 teams are set to take part in the finals which wasn’t held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From next year the number of teams will be reduced to 16. The ITF confirmed the schedule of tournaments will be issued in the ‘coming weeks.’

Former French Open champion Albert Costa says the two cities have been selected to ‘ensure a smooth transition’ between countries for players. Costa, who is Director of the Davis Cup Finals, has stressed that the conditions of each venue are similar to each other.

We are very excited to bring the Davis Cup Finals to Innsbruck and Turin. Both cities submitted impressive bids that not only promise a world class experience for players and fans, but also include stringent measures to ensure the health and safety of all in attendance,” said Costa.
“It was important to find two European cities that were well connected to Madrid, with similar playing conditions, to provide a smooth transition for players travelling from other venues. With confirmation of the three venues, we are already working hard to offer the best possible event in 2021. We are also liaising closely with the Region of Madrid and the City Council as thanks to their support, Madrid remains as the main venue for this year.”

There are questions about if the move will be enough to attract the top names. Due to the extension, the event will result in the off-season being reduced by a week. A key period for many players who used it for training.There are also questions about the decision to launch a multi-county tournament this year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will each country having their own rules.

The Davis Cup finals are set to take place between November 25th and December 5th.

Venues of 2021 Davis Cup Finals

Madrid Arena, Madrid (ESP)

  • Group A: Spain, Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Ecuador
  • Group B: Canada, Kazakhstan, Sweden
  • Quarter-finals: Winner Group A v group runner-up; Winner Group B v group runner-up
  • Semi-finals and final

Olympia-Halle, Innsbruck (AUT)

  • Group C: France, Great Britain, Czech Republic
  • Group F: Serbia, Germany, Austria
  • Quarter-final: Winner Group C v Winner Group F

Pala Alpitour Arena, Turin (ITA)

  • Group D: Croatia, Australia, Hungary
  • Group E: USA, Italy, Colombia
  • Quarter-final: Winner Group D v Winner Group E

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