Rafa Nadal against Roger Federer on the Spanish clay (the odds that Costa will choose the “red” to host Switzerland are great), Novak Djokovic on front of his Serbian supporters facing Andy Roddick. Two hot-spots for the next Davis Cup first round, programmed for the weekend before the Indian Wells Masters 1000.
It will be a key decision for the actual n.1, winner this year over the Mallorcan in Madrid. In the last five years, Federer has never played the Davis first round ties; this time surface and hosting city could suggest him to go on with the same attitude, but the value he says to assign to the team competition could convince him to act differently. This is one of the last chances he has to lift up the Dwight’s Pot. And sacrificing a bit of condition towards Indian Wells could become an acceptable and sufferable counter-indication.
The eventual winner will face France or Germany. The Bleus has the ground chance and greater odds to pass through, considered the ranking gaps, nonetheless the “debutant” Simon and Monfils encountered poor figures respectively against Berdych (in the WG first round loss to Czechs) and against the 2006 Wimbledon junior champion, the Dutch Thiemo De Bakker, in the playoff. Tsonga saved French honour and pride and will prepare the tie against Germany (reminding the thrilling 1982 World Cup semifinal) with a perfect record of 6-0 in Davis cup rubbers. In a match probably played on the clay, Kohlschreiber could become the strenght of Germans, while Haas, handing glimpses of his old style and standards at Wimbledon, could face difficulties in best-to-5 singles with long rallies. Besides, he hasn’t played in Davis since 2007 when he surrendered with a periodic 2-6 to Igor Andreev.
Russia and India appears like a generational clash. Without Safin, Russia based his hopes on the always reliable Davydenko and on Andreev, also if he became the icon of the Israelian fall with the sticker labelling “Russia” melancholically pending from the back of his shirt. Tursunov is the best doubles player, but this seems a point already assigned to India: Bhupathi and Paes played 25 Davis doubles and lost only twice, being unbeaten since 1996. Devvarman, the ex Ncaa Champion, and the child prodigy Yuki Bhambri, junior n.1, doesn’s anyway seems a real menace for Tarpishev’s men.
For the third time in four years the draw has coupled Argentina and Sweden, i.e Robin Soderling, firt man to beat Nadal at the Roland Garros, and Juan Martin Del Potro, recent Us Open champion over an unusually nervous Roger Federer. In the previous four meetings, host team has always won. This time, above all if Nalbandian won’t be present, as it seem possible, the rule appears meant to be confirmed. The match will be played in Sweden, probably on the most ice-like surface among the regular ones.
In the low part of the draw Novak Djokovic could search his revenge over Andy Roddick, who defeated the Serb three times this season. The pot gave the Serbian the home advantage, but they have to choose the surface, and that’s not such an easy decision to make. They should actually opt for the clay: in this case, Patrick McEnroe could decide to give Sam Querrey, one of the rare Americans with some decent result on this surface, his Davis debut.
So we could see a thrilling derby, with not so negligible geopolitical meanings and implications, betweens Serbs and Croats. Karlovic and Cilic should overpower Ecuador (seeing the ranking, the feeblest team in the World Group). South Americans, led by the Lapentti brothers, would have had some chance playing at home. Against Brazil, Nico defeated Bellucci in his 37th Davis tie; in Croatia he won’t repeat the miracle.
Chile awaits eagerly the possible revenge in Israel to forget an embarassing defeat haunting them even nowadays. In the Yom Kippur, Dudi Sela stunned Fernando Gonzalez and Israel gained an historical passage to the World Group. And this year semifinal was only the last chapter of a marvellous tale. Now the match will be played on South American clay with the significant uncertainty about the presence of Mano de Pedra. The best Chilean player announced in March his intention to break the contract with the Federation after the president made public the amount granted to players. He lost the last three matches, but the captain Gildemeister promised to try everything possible to convince him come back.
In the last tie of the draw, the finalists of Czech Republic will travel to Belgium hoping in a great day of the proverbially fickle Stepanek and Berdyck. Belgium, instead, is praying to recover their n.1, Krzystof Vliegen (famous for a dramatic comeback against Safin from 0-6 1-3 in 2007 Montecarlo Masters), missing the playoff against Ukraine.
Off topic: Andy Murray is more and more resolute to abandon Great Britain to his destiny in the Euro/African group II. In the playoff against Poland the Scotster won his two singles but saw his wrist problem worsening, and it wasn’t enough. Great Britain is pathologically uncapable to put beside him another decent player: they unuccessfully tried Goodall, Eaton, Bogdanovic and so on. But a single, eloquent data, remains: when the contributions of Messrs Henman, Rusedski and Murray are taken out of the country's Davis Cup results for the last 20 years, Britain have failed to win a single match.