Reem Abulleil says there's plenty to look forward to in Davis Cup World Group action this weekend.
Davis Cup has come under fire in recent years with many players and fans calling for changes to the format and structure in order to ensure that all the top stars can participate without it adding too much load to their already stacked schedules.
A long list of marquee players, like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are missing this weekend’s World Group first round ties, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to look forward to over the next few days.
Here are a few reasons to tune into the Davis Cup World Group action this weekend…
KYRGIOS-ZVEREV NO. 5
The young rivalry between Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev will take centre stage in Brisbane on Sunday in what promises to be an exciting showdown between Australia and Germany. The tie is likely to still be alive by day three and Kyrgios-Zverev could prove to be the crucial rubber to seal it for either side. Kyrgios leads Zverev 3-1 head-to-head and has more experience representing his country than the German world No. 5.
Zverev is contesting just his third Davis Cup tie (is 1-4 win-loss in the competition) while Kyrgios has won five of his last six Davis Cup rubbers.
Following a disappointing third round loss for Zverev to Chung Hyeon at the Australian Open, success this weekend could be the perfect pick-me-up for him, while Kyrgios, who has long said he dreams of winning Davis Cup for Australia, will be fired up with the backing of the home crowd.
Some exciting young faces look set to make their Davis Cup debuts this weekend, including Australia’s Alex de Minaur, who opens the tie against Zverev on Friday.
De Minaur, who turns 19 this month, had an incredible Australian summer, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane (took out Milos Raonic en route) and the final in Sydney (beat Fernando Verdasco, Benoit Paire and Feliciano Lopez en route), before losing his first round to Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open. It will be interesting to see how the talented teen fares with the pressure of playing for his country.
Others set to make their debut are Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Liam Broady, who have been tasked to take on the Spaniards in Marbella, with Kyle Edmund not fit enough following his heroic run to the Australian Open semi-finals.
CROATIA v CANADA LIKELY TO DELIVER
While Croatia are on a four-tie winning streak on clay – the surface they’re playing on against Canada this weekend – they have also lost five of their last six home ties.
World No. 3 Marin Cilic is exhausted and jet-lagged having played the Australian Open final last Sunday in Melbourne. He is with the team in Osijek but is regarded as the fifth player, who can be fielded if necessary throughout the weekend but is currently not part of the line-up, with the Croatians now led by Borna Coric in singles.
Coric will open the tie against Peter Polansky, while Viktor Galovic will contest his first-ever Davis Cup live rubber when he takes on Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in the second singles on Friday.
The Canadians are led by teenager Shapovalov, who has a 3-2 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles rubbers. Canada are looking to end a four-tie losing streak away from home.
An all-NextGen clash between Coric and Shapovalov will be a mouth-watering prospect on Sunday.
DEFENDING CHAMPS LEFT TSONGA-LESS
Title holders France made a last-minute change to their five-man squad with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulling out of their tie against Netherlands injured and replaced by Adrian Mannarino.
The French will be led by Lucas Pouille, clinched the deciding rubber in last year’s final against Belgium to give his country a first Davis Cup title since 2001, and Richard Gasquet in singles. The Dutch have Thiemo de Bakker and Robin Haase as their singles players, with doubles star Jean-Julien Rojer taking centre stage on Saturday alongside Mattwe Middelkoop.
A few changes have been introduced to Davis Cup in 2018 including the following rules:
– The introduction of five-man teams in the 2018 World Group and Zone Groups I and II.
– Amendments to the dead rubber policy across the World Group and Zone Groups I and II now mean that no fifth rubber will be played if the fourth rubber is decisive, the same as the current rule for the Davis Cup Final.
– In the World Group, only the fourth rubber will be played if the score is 3-0. The fourth rubber will be best-of-three tiebreak sets.