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It’s all change in the Davis Cup this year.
Instead of the winners being decided across the whole year, a season-ending Finals event will crown the 2019 champions.
The move has proved controversial, as has the removal of best-of-five rubbers – it’s now best-of-three.
However, before we get to November’s Finals, this weekend sees the Qualifiers from which the 12 tie winners will join the six already through to the event in Madrid.
(Uberlandia, indoor clay)
This is very much a second-string Belgian team with no David Goffin or Steve Darcis and 1/6 Brazil should prevail, especially with home advantage. Thiago Monteiro is no mug on clay, while Rogerio Dutra Silva should chip in with a point or two. Brazil also have a world-class doubles pair in Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, who should be all but guaranteed a point.
(Tashkent, indoor hard)
The hosts will hope their choice of a medium-fast surface (Rebound Synpave) will help them to the upset. They have no-one ranked in the top 100 so Denis Istomin will need to play above himself. He’s capable but Filip Krajinovic can play on a fast surface – remember he made the Paris Masters final at the end of 2017. I’d still expect the Serbs to progress but don’t rate them 1/5 shots.
(Adelaide, outdoor hard)
With Damir Dzumhur and Mirza Basic in opposition, this is no gimme for the hosts, chalked up at 2/13, but Australia should still win with something to spare. Both Alex De Minaur and John Millman are ranked higher than any of the Bosnian players, while the Aussies also have a top-quality doubles performer in John Peers.
(Kolkata, outdoor grass)
Italy will be on upset alert here with the hosts having chosen a grasscourt for the tie – the Italians are certainly not used to laying on grass at this time of year. Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan will both need to play well but both men have enjoyed some success on grass in the past – the former beat Denis Shapovalov on it last season, while the latter upset Dominic Thiem on the green stuff in 2017. Andreas Seppi will be the key for the visitors – he’s a former Eastbourne champion and is also in good form having made the final in Sydney and the last 32 of the Australian Open. He may well pull them through but India are worth considering at 2/1.
(Frankfurt, indoor hard)
It’s hard to see anything other than a home win here. Alex Zverev leads the hosts, who also have three other players in the singles top 60. Not having to venture into the best-of-five format will suit Zverev down to the ground as he has a poor record in it. Hungary are without their best player in Marton Fucsovics and so have no-one ranked inside 200. I’d expect this one to be done and dusted after the doubles, as 1/66 odds suggest.
Switzerland v Russia
(Biel, indoor hard)
Switzerland has a mountain to climb if it is to topple a powerful Russian team in Biel in the #DavisCupQualifiers
Cue dramatic music… pic.twitter.com/NzFDM2k5sF
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) January 31, 2019
Long without the men who led them to the Davis Cup title in 2014, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, the Swiss always fight hard. Expect the likes of Henri Laaksonen to perform above their ranking but class will tell here. The Russians have a young side packed with talent – the likes of Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev may well win this competition in the future.
(Astana, indoor hard)
The Kazakhs have long been one of the big overachievers in Davis Cup. They’ve often made good use of home advantage and it’s no surprise to see they’ve again chosen a pretty slick surface for this tie. It may be a bit too quick for Joao Sousa, the Portuguese number one who is ranked inside the top 40. Mikhail Kukushkin’s experience could well prove crucial, while Alexander Bublik should provide able support. The hosts to edge this one.
(Ostrava, indoor hard)
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) January 31, 2019
This should be a close battle, as the odds suggest – it’s 11/10 v 8/11. Jiri Vesely and Lukas Rosol can both perform to a high level on their day, but the same can be said of Dutchman Robin Haase, who is the highest-ranked singles player in the tie (54) by some distance. Perhaps crucially the visitors have two strong doubles players in Jean-Julien Rojer and Matwe Middelkoop. Haase will likely need to win his two singles for the Dutch to win and he’s not the most reliable of players so I’m tempted here by the odds-against about the hosts.
(Bogota, indoor clay)
Playing at 2,600m above sea level will be a big advantage to the hosts, who will be much more used to the pressureless balls. Still, the Swedish Ymer brothers, Elias and Mikael, are the two highest-ranked singles players in the tie, even if they haven’t pushed on as many had predicted in their junior days. The Colombians boast big experience in clay specialist Santiago Giraldo, while they are another side with a specialist doubles line-up in Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. It won’t be easy, but the hosts should prevail and are worth backing in what is basically a pick ‘em in the market.
(Salzburg, indoor clay)
The feel of this tie has completely changed in the last few days following the withdrawal of top-10 star Dominic Thiem from the hosts’ line-up. That leaves the Austrians – and Thiem – under serious threat of missing out on the Finals. Nicolas Jarry and Christian Garin would both have been expected to lose to Thiem but now the pair will likely start favourites in all four singles rubbers. Subsequently, an away win looks the way to go here with 9/20 worth backing.
(Bratislava, indoor clay)
With Denis Shapovalov leading the Canadian team in the absence of Milos Raonic I initially thought there might be some value on the hosts here, but when they market went up the Slovaks were made marginal favourites. Martin Klizan is a top-40 player and has greater experience – and better results – than Shapovalov on clay. Canada will also hope to get something from rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime but’s far from guaranteed on this surface. I can see this one going down to the wire.
(Guangzhou, outdoor hard)
There’s no Kei Nishikori for Japan but Yoshihito Nishioka and Taro Daniel look good enough to send their nation to the Finals. Both are now ranked inside the top 70 but China’s lack of such talent very much remains in the men’s game. With Japan also boasting a top-quality doubles player in Ben McLachlan, I don’t see an upset in this one.
Colombia to beat Sweden 9/10
Czech Republic to beat Netherlands 11/10
India to beat Italy 2/1
Chile, Brazil, Japan all to win 51/50