Too much tennis can decide the Davis Cup semifinalsApril 13, 2017
Australia, Belgium, France, and Serbia won their respective quarterfinal ties, and it didn't come as a surprise that these were the four home teams. Three Grand Slam tournaments and five ATP Masters 1000 events separate the quarterfinals and semifinals of the 106th edition of the Davis Cup. It's a lot of tennis, which can determine the winners of the match-up between Australia and Belgium and France and Serbia.
US team captain Jim Courier picked Sam Querrey to play Nick Kyrgios in the first reverse singles rubber. The resident of Las Vegas, currently ranked 25 in the world, beat the native of Canberra on his way to winning the 2017 Abierto Mexicano Telcel last month. Kyrgios, who reached a career-high 13, seemed to be able to handle the pressure of the tour.
"Concentrated, focused and resilient, he can and should be top five by the end of the year," Courier said.
Kyrgios has yet to win a singles tour title this year, but he's been playing his finest tennis since his early exit in the Australian Open. Back-to-back victories over Novak Djokovic. A scintillating semifinal match against Roger Federer in Miami, with all sets ending in tiebreaks. And he was hardly challenged in both singles rubbers despite falling behind on the first set. It would be the beginning of the clay-court season, which could be a good indicator of the semifinals on September 15-17. Don't be surprised if clay would be the choice of surface.
Let's assess the chances of the semifinalists:
Belgium (7) vs. Australia. The Royal Belgian Tennis Federation won't be foolish to choose an indoor hard court, as it will suit Kyrgios's game. Then again, Kyrgios had been prone to injury in the past. The home court could prompt David Goffin, Belgium's top-ranked player, to commit to the tie. On the other hand, Aussie non-playing captain Lleyton Hewitt will retain Jordan Thompson. After beating Jiří Veselý and Jack Sock, then there won't be any reason for Hewitt to call Bernard Tomic. Anything can happen in the Davis Cup, where rankings and previous results hardly count at times. If Kyrgios can keep his composure, then there's no reason for the Australia Davis Cup team to return to their first finals since 2003.
France (6) vs. Serbia (8). The Serbia Davis Cup team should be the favourites on paper, but Djokovic had never been his dominant self after winning the French Open last year. Furthermore, there won't be any guarantee that the twelve-time Grand Slam champion will play away from home. The French Davis Cup team, on the other hand, boasts of more players in the Top 100. But Les Bleus last won the Davis Cup in 2001. The French team were runner-ups in 2010 and 2014, and Yannick Noah could be the only one to push this current generation of talented French players further. The French Tennis Federation would pick the red dirt, where the French team have the likely chance of beating the most dominant player during the last six years. Djokovic or no Djokovic, France won't be denied of another chance of winning their tenth Davis Cup title.
If Australia and France will win their respective semifinal ties, then it will be a rematch of the 2001 Davis Cup final. Tennis Australia chose grass, but Nicolas Escudé would be the unlikely hero. (Escudé upset Hewitt in the first singles rubber.) But let's not get far ahead.
An unlikely end of an era
India would be one of the sixteen teams to compete in the playoffs this September, but India's 4-1 win over Uzbekistan was overshadowed by the acrimonious relationship between Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. They were once the best doubles team in the world, with three major titles between them. Could a lack of respect be the reason behind their bitter parting? It seemed to be the case after Bhupathi posted an emotional Facebook post after Paes left the team midway during the tie.
Bhupathi replaced Anand Amritraj as India's Davis Cup team, and it would mean one thing. Paes, who would have the most Davis Cup team, won't make another Davis Cup appearance. Politics played a hand on it, as public opinion was divided on this long-standing issue. Paes recently won a Challengers tour title with Adil Shamasdin in León, Mexico, which would show that the 43-year-old still has winning form. The 1996 Olympic bronze medalist had been justifying his decorated career as a reason for being allowed to compete in the Davis Cup and Olympics. What happened in Bangalore, where the tie was held, would also mean that Paes's bid to appear in his eight consecutive Olympics could be in jeopardy unless the All India Tennis Association would intervene (and allowed Paes to play in Tokyo).
A similar case happened prior to the Rio Olympics, where Paes and Rohan Bopanna lost their opening match. Paes deserved all the respect, but his colleagues don't share the same sentiment. Amritraj blamed both Bhupathi and Paes for what happened prior to the tie, and it remained to be seen if Bhupathi, winner of ten Grand Slam mixed doubles title, could lead a younger generation of Indian players to renewed glory.
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