2017 Davis Cup: Preview of the opening roundJanuary 31, 2017

If the just-concluded Australian Open would be any indication, then this season could be more exciting than the previous years. The opening tie of the Davis Cup will be held on February 3-5, and there have been unexpected happenings along the way. Could it affect the predicted outcome? Let's have a look:

Juan Martin del Potro and Federico Delbonis won't play in Buenos Aires. Both players gave Argentina their first Davis Cup title in Zagreb last November, but they won't be around when the Argentinian team would begin their defense of the title. Argentine captain Daniel Orsanic knew that both players weren't fit enough (to begin the season), not wanting to risk an injury too early. Diego Schwartzman, Horacio Zeballos, Guido Pella and Leonardo Mayer would face the Italian squad, led by Fabio Fognini. The home fans could inspire the quartet (and help them advance to the quarterfinals).

Jordan Thompson makes his Davis Cup debut in Sydney. Bernard Tomic made himself unavailable in the opening round, which didn't worry Lleyton Hewitt at all. Jordan Thompson, one of the promising talents, will join Nick Kyrgios, Sam Groth, and John Peers. The Aussie squad will face the Czech Republic without Tomáš Berdych. This will make Australia a slight favourite (to win the tie), but Kyrgios could be another matter. Will Hewitt be able to inspire the mercurial Canberran?

The Bryan Brothers make their exit from Davis Cup competition. This won't affect the chances of the US squad, where captain Jim Courier can rely on Jack Sock and Steve Johnson. (The duo won the bronze medal in men's doubles in the Rio Olympics.) The Americans will play the Swiss team without Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. The US team may not need the home fans.

Yannick Noah has his hands full this season. The 1983 French Open champion had been appointed the Fed Cup captain while retaining his services in the Davis Cup. France would be the strong favourite over the Japanese squad, as Kei Nishikori opted to focus on his packed schedule. This was the reason behind Gaël Monfils's decision not to play against the Croatian squad (in the semifinals last year). Noah didn't like it, so he chose Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon (to play the singles). The Davis Cup captain insisted that his decision won't affect the cohesion of the group, but time would tell. Moreover, the performance of Monfils this season might be a decider. Will he turn out to be a prodigal son?

Andy Murray won't play in Ottawa while Milos Raonic might watch from the sidelines. Canada's top-ranked player could have won his quarterfinal match against Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open, but an old injury resurfaced (and affected Raonic's performance). This might make him doubtful for Canada's opening tie against Great Britain. Murray won't play, as he might prepare for Indian Wells and Miami this March. If this will be the case, then the Britons have a good chance to advance to the quarters. Daniel Evans could lead the team.

Nenad Zimonjić couldn't ask for a better start. The winner of eight Grand Slam (doubles and mixed doubles) titles will be the new Davis Cup captain for Serbia, and his squad will play the Russians in Niš. Djokovic will lead the team, so it's expected that Serbia will be around this spring. An early loss in Melbourne turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Spain's chances depend on the players who can travel to Osijek. Nadal's run in the Australian Open would mean that he couldn't make the long journey to Croatia. Conchita Martinez won't mind at all, as the Spanish squad is stacked with talents. As a matter of fact, the doubles match can close out the tie (in favour of the Spaniards).

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