All around the world today, the First Round Davis Cup draw ceremonies were held. Here’s all the important news and photos from around the globe! We won’t bore you with the “who plays whom first” stuff that you can get easily at the Davis Cup website. Instead, here are a few things that we think are noteworthy or that give a particular team a strategic advantage.
Russia vs. Serbia
In what could turn out to be a pivotal blow to Serbia’s chances, rising Serb star Janko Tipsarevic is out of the first-round tie with Russia in Moscow because of a severe stomach bug and will be replaced by Davis Cup rookie Viktor Troicki. Fresh off his Australian Open win, Novak Djokovic will open the tie against Russia’s #2 player Mikhail Youzhny.
For Saturday’s doubles Marat Safin, amid rumors that he would pull out because some kind of serious injury, has been named to play alongside Dmitry Tursunov, apparently because next-in-line choice Igor Andreev was unavailable and Tarpischev felt any youngster he could call up would be unable to compete with the Serb team. Interesting. On the Serbian side, Djokovic was named to play doubles alongside doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic in an unsurprising move that would make Djokovic an absolutely crucial factor in his team’s success. In Sunday’s reverse singles matches, Davydenko is slated to take on Djokovic and Troicki would meet Youzhny.
LATE BREAKING NEWS: In what would surely be a tie-altering revelation, it seems that Djokovic has also contracted this “viral infection” that has plagued teammate Janko Tipsarevic. After all the Haas Hoopla last fall, it’s hard not to think of this as some kind of bizarre coincidence. Hopefully at least this time, these guys can be tested ASAP to put the conspiracy theories to rest! However, he has not officially withdrawn as of the time we are publishing this, so we’ll have to wait and see what the story is when we wake up!
Israel vs. Sweden
Perhaps not as high-profile or more lacking in top players than some of the other ties this weekend, Sweden vs. Israel might actually prove to be the most interesting tie of the World Group first round. The tie was made even more intriguing after today’s draw, which has the more interesting singles match of the two – Jonas Bjorkman versus Dudi Sela – first up. This makes the first match even more critical than it might have been because if Sela can put in a solid performance and give Israel a 1-0 lead, it will set the Israeli team up nicely for the doubles, allowing top team Erlich and Ram to play knowing they will have at worst a 1-1 tie. Had the tie worked out the other way, Sweden would likely have been up 1-0, thus putting more pressure on Sela and in our opinion, making a 2-0 sweep for Sweden on Friday more likely.
A couple of other interesting things from this tie. Before the tie, Andy Ram apparently said that Israel is the weakest team in the world group and that they should not be considered favorites against anyone. Whether that’s true humility or some kind of mind game, we cannot be sure, but with one solid singles player in Sela and a top doubles team, it’s hard to call this Israeli team “weak.” Also interesting is that Jonas Bjorkman, one of the best doubles players of all time, has been left off the Swedish doubles squad in favor of Robert Lindstedt, a younger doubles specialist, so that Bjorkman can focus on his singles matches. A very interesting strategy for Sweden that, if Sunday’s matches are live, could prove to be a very important decision.
Peru vs. Spain
Not that this is shocking, but Nicolas Almagro – slightly lower-ranked than Fernando Verdasco but probably a better clay-courter and perhaps tougher mentally – has been chosen as a singles starter for Spain. He will open against Luis Horna in a match that is absolutely critical to Peru’s chances. It is a must-win match for Horna; there’s no other way to put it. This match actually has quite the potential to be a marathon. Although Horna himself expected to play Almagro, others were surprised. Robredo acknowledged that although Spain is the favorite in the tie, they still have to go out there and win. Horna on the other hand, hopes that the rowdy Peruvian crowd might help lift his teammates to surprising heights.
Austria vs. USA
Perennial American #1 Andy Roddick will lay his 6-0 head-to-head record (with no sets lost) on the line as he suits up to face Austrian Jurgen Melzer in Friday’s first opening singles rubber, which will be followed by James Blake and Stefan Koubek on an indoor red clay surface at Ferry Dusika Hallenstadion in Vienna. Despite Roddick’s one-sided head-to-head, he admits this match will be a difficult one, considering it is on clay and in front of a hostile Austrian crowd. Saturday’s doubles match will pit American twins and World #1 Bob and Mike Bryan against Melzer and Julian Knowle. On Sunday’s reverse singles matches, we’re scheduled to see Roddick vs Koubek and Blake vs Melzer if the matches are live.
The US Team has to be pleased that Roddick will open the tie, considering his impatient personality and impressive record against Melzer; plus, one would think (or hope?) that Roddick to show the world that his game is still on track after his befuddling Australian Open exit. Despite some concerns about the surface being rough around the playing area, US Captain Patrick McEnroe is optimistic that the surface will be fine for play tomorrow. Additionally, Roddick flatly denied having a problem with the court, asking where the reporter heard him say he was unhappy with it and that whoever told him Roddick didn’t like the court “doesn’t know anything.” Ouch. But of course, Roddick has to expect to have much of the pressure, considering Blake has never won a live Davis Cup singles rubber on clay. Double ouch.
It’s not that the other ties are unimportant or don’t deserve attention, it’s just that we don’t really feel there’s anything too important about the draw ceremony to make you read. So instead, enjoy the pictures from the draw ceremonies and come back tomorrow for reports of all the matches from around the globe!