Liverpool FC: Christmas Crack Me Up Challenge
Spain may be missing Rafael Nadal for this week’s Davis Cup semi-final but their price to beat France now looks a good one.
Had John Isner and Jack Sock been available for the US, they would surely have been considerably shorter than 10/3 to win this tie. However, the Americans will have to deal with the loss of their best claycourt player – Isner’s wife is due to give birth any day now – and one who just a few days ago won a Grand Slam doubles title. The duo’s absence also appears to have had a knock-on effect for Sam Querrey. Now needed for doubles duty, he has been left out of Friday’s singles in favour of debutant Frances Tiafoe. He and Mike Bryan should still be able to form a decent enough doubles team but they will be up against an arguably better one in Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig. USA will surely need the doubles with Marin Cilic and Borna Coric both looking better equipped for the clay surface than their American counterparts. Yes, Cilic faces a pretty quick readjustment after his run to the US Open quarter-finals on hardcourts but I still think the hosts have the better quality and I doubt the visitors will be able to get a singles point on the board on Friday, a scenario which would leave them in deep trouble.
Even more than the other semi-final, those not in attendance could have a significant impact on the outcome. I suspect Spain would have been favourites had Rafael Nadal been in their line-up but he withdrew following the injury he sustained in his US Open semi-final. The visitors’ odds are now out at 21/10 and they could be worth a play at that price. Holders France will hope their surface choice of Rebound Ace Synpave – a medium-paced court, according to official ratings – will help them prevail against clay-loving opposition but none of their players is in sparkling form. They are also unable to call upon their established doubles pair of Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert – the latter is injured. Julien Benneteau will likely step in but Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers will be a tough team to beat. In singles, Spain have both Pablo Carreno Busta and Roberto Bautista Agut – experienced top-30 players, who can play on hardcourts, while Lopez could well get the nod at some stage given his propensity for faster conditions. France put their reputation of mental fragility to one side last year to win the trophy but I still don’t see true reliability in their ranks and so Spain, at the price, look worth a play.
This was supposed to be a relegation play-off for GB following their first-round defeat to Spain but the only thing resting on it now, following the competition’s forthcoming revamp, is a seeding for February’s new qualifying round. Unlike the hosts, Uzbekistan need to win to guarantee their spot in those qualifiers but even if they lose they could still get in on ranking, so this may not be the most enthralling of ties. GB will be missing both Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund and in fact the Uzbeks, who have tried and failed to win at this stage no fewer than nine times in the past, will boast the tie’s highest-ranked singles player in Denis Istomin. He’ll need to win his two singles matches but that’s more than possible. However, the visitors have no other player inside the top 400 so Cameron Norrie should beat whoever he plays on the opening day, while the doubles is surely GB’s for the taking given they have two of the world’s top 25 at their disposal in Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot. For there to be an upset, I suspect Uzbekistan would need to win both Sunday singles, including a fifth rubber for which I’d envisage the more experienced Dan Evans getting the nod ahead of Jay Clarke. Evans has some decent form on the Challenger Tour and should prevail. GB are clearly favourites but the Uzbeks are not without hope and could offer a spot of value if they are chalked up at a big price.
Spain to beat France at 21/10