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Davis Cup Preview: Part 2

Czech Republic v Italy



Tomas Berdych, fresh off his first title of 2012 in Montpellier, leads the Czech Republic as they look to avoid consecutive first round defeats. Backed up by the experienced Radek Stepanek, Lukas Rosol and doubles specialist, Frantisek Cermak, the Czechs will be expecting to overcome the Italians on the hard courts of Ostrava.

Italy are back in the World Group for the first time in a decade, although face an uphill task to trouble the Czechs. They will be relying on Andreas Seppi to try and clinch a couple of points in the singles as Starace and Bolelli are both much more suited to the clay courts. Daniele Bracciali might give them some hope in the doubles, but it would be little surprise to see an easy win for the Czechs.

It is likely that it will not be a happy return for the Italians. A 5-0 whitewash could easily be on the cards and they will probably be turning their attention to a likely playoff to remain in the World Group for 2013.

Czech Republic: Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Lukas Rosol, Frantisek Cermak
Italy: Andreas Seppi, Simone Bolelli, Potito Starace, Daniele Bracciali

Serbia v Sweden



Even without their star man, Novak Djokovic, Serbia are massive favourites for this tie. Spearheaded by 2010 stars Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki, and backed up by the 43-time title winning doubles star, Nenad Zimonjic, it is difficult to see any way that Sweden can trouble them.

Sweden are without their top player, Robin Soderling, who has been out for over six months through injury. Without him, they are relying on world numbers 348 and 505, Michael Ryderstedt and Carl Bergman, and it would be an enormous shock were either of these to win a match, let alone the minimum of 2 that they would need to give themselves a shot in the doubles.

It is difficult to see this finishing anything other than 5-0. Last year, Serbia beat Sweden 4-1, losing only the doubles, but with only one doubles specialist this year, Sweden are unlikely to even win the doubles rubber.

Serbia: Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki, Ilija Bozoljac, Nenad Zimonjic
Sweden: Michael Ryderstedt, Carl Bergman, Filip Prpic, Robert Lindstedt

Japan v Croatia



This is the first time that Japan have played in the World Group in 17 years, but they will be fancying their chances of an upset. In Kei Nishikori, they have one of the most talented young players, who is rapidly moving up the rankings and reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final in Australia last month. Backed up by Go Soeda, who has a Challenger title to his name this season, Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita, they have a chance on the indoor hard courts of Hyogo.

Croatia are without their top men, Marin Cilic and Ivan Ljubicic, but have the ever dangerous Ivo Karlovic, and the talented Ivan Dodig to spearhead their attack. The key rubber could be the second of the match where Karlovic takes on Kei Nishikori. Karlovic has admitted that it will be a tough tie, but feels that they can come through it and progress to the quarter finals.

This has the potential to be the most exciting of all the first round ties. As both sides have admitted, this could easily go down to a final rubber, and home advantage could potential be the difference-maker in that situation. Croatia will be relying on Ivo Karlovic to make the most of the fast indoor courts, while Japan will be hopeful that Nishikori can continue to enhance his burgeoning reputation.

Japan: Kei Nishikori, Go Soeda, Tatsuma Ito, Yuichi Sugita
Croatia: Ivan Dodig, Ivo Karlovic, Antonio Veic, Lovro Zovko

Germany v Argentina



Germany come into this tie with high hopes. With a team consisting of Florian Mayer, Philipp Petzschner, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Tommy Haas, they have plenty of talent and experience. Interestingly though, they have elected to play the tie on a clay court, which you can’t help feel plays into the hands of the South Americans, although three of the Germans do have clay court titles and Philipp Petzschner is a Grand Slam doubles winner.

Argentina are the most successful side never to win the Davis Cup, having lost in the final four times, including a heartbreaking defeat to Spain last year. They are without Juan Martin Del Potro this time around, but in Juan Ignacio Chela and Juan Monaco, they have two clay court specialists, and the exploits of David Nalbandian in Davis Cup ties is well-documented, having won 22 of his 27 singles rubbers, losing only once on clay to Nikolay Davydenko four years ago.

This is probably the highlight tie of the round and it remains to be seen whether Germany will regret the decision to choose to play on the clay courts. David Nalbandian is the only Argentinean to have won a title on a hard court, compared to three of the Germans, but they are obviously confident in their players’ abilities, so it will be interesting to see whether the gamble pays off.

Germany: Florian Mayer, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Philipp Petzschner, Tommy Haas
Argentina: Juan Ignacio Chela, Juan Monaco, David Nalbandian, Eduardo Schwank

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