The new-look Davis Cup tournament will get its first outing over the next week in Madrid where 18 nations will compete indoors on a Greenset hardcourt surface.
Traditional home-and-away ties, which created such fervent atmosphere, have been ditched with the aim of creating tennis’ own World Cup, the teams gathering in one city and playing over seven days to decide the champions.
The teams have been split into six groups of three. The winners of each will progress to the quarter-finals, with the two best runners-up also making it into the knockout stage.
Each tie is now made up of two singles rubbers and one doubles. The top-ranked players of the two teams meet in singles, as do the number-two-ranked players. The doubles comes last, making it less important than it used to be. Each rubber is now the best of three tie-break sets.
Unsurprisingly, the new format, backed by money from Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique’s Kosmos company, has come in for much criticism and some players, such as Alex Zverev, have opted not to appear.
But Kosmos and the International Tennis Federation will be pleased to have Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in attendance, along with a host of other top names.
From a betting perspective, there’s no course form to go on – even when the ATP Tour plays at this Caja Majica venue, the tennis is played on clay – but the new format does mean there’s potential value to be had.
Here’s my look at all 18 teams, with my best bets towards the foot of the page:
Team: Gael Monfils, Benoit Paire, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Nicolas Mahut
France have long had great depth to their squad and that’s shown here with three top-30 singles players to choose from. They also have one of the world’s best doubles teams in Herbert and Mahut so fully deserve their place towards the head of the betting. The one weakness is the lack of a truly top-class star who could be relied upon to deliver a point in every tie.
Team: Novak Djokovic, Dusan Lajovic, Viktor Troicki, Filip Krajinovic, Janko Tipsarevic
Talking of top-class reliable stars, Serbia possess such a man in Novak Djokovic and their hopes will rest largely on him. He’ll be expected to win every singles he plays but Serbia will still need another point in every tie. With no great doubles expertise, that will likely have to come in singles. Serbia do have decent options here with Filip Krajinovic looking likely to get the nod. Certainly in with a good shout.
Team: Yoshihito Nishioka, Yasutaka Uchiyama, Taro Daniel, Ben McLachlan, Yuichi Sugita
Without Kei Nishikori, Japan look likely whipping boys in this group. To be fair, the likes of Yuichi Sugita and Yoshihito Nishioka have produced the odd shock result on the ATP Tour but asking them to do it consistently across whole week looks too big a task. Hard to see them featuring in the knockout stages.
Team: Borna Coric, Mate Pavic, Nikola Mektic, Ivan Dodig, Nino Serdarusic
The defending champions from the previous, much-loved format. However, Marin Cilic played a big part in that success and he’s injured now. Much therefore will rest on the still-young shoulders of Borna Coric, who isn’t exactly Mr Consistent. They do have three of the world top 17 doubles players although, unfortunately for captain Zeljko Krajan, none plays with another regularly.
Team: Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, Feliciano Lopez, Marcel Granollers
Much will be expected of the hosts with world number one Nadal and another member of the top 10, Bautista Agut, set for singles duty. However, indoor hard is neither player’s favourite surface and it’s fair to say both haven’t finished the season in the best of form (or health in Nadal’s case). Having landed in a tough group, the tournament favourites look vulnerable.
Team: Daniil Medvedev*, Karen Khachanov, Andrey Rublev, Evgeny Donskoy
An impressive set of Russian players has arrived on the scene at the same time and they certainly look to have a bright Davis Cup future. Some will feel this year may be a tad early but they could well cause an upset in this group. Medvedev has been one of the best in the world over the second half of the season, while Khachanov and Rublev have both shown they can topple the best on their day. Notably the pair teamed up to reach the final of the Paris Masters doubles recently which bodes well.
- Medvedev has withdrawn since this preview was published. No replacement has been named.
Team: Diego Schwartzman, Guido Pella, Leonardo Mayer, Horacio Zeballos, Maximo Gonzalez
Had Juan Martin Del Potro been fit and firing, Argentina would have fancied their chances here but his absence is a massive blow. Still, this looks one of the weaker groups and Diego Schwartzman and (probably) Guido Pella look capable of winning singles matches in it. I doubt, however, they will be that competitive if they do reach the knockout stage.
Team: Jan-Lennard Struff, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Dominik Koepfer, Kevin Krawietz, Andreas Mies
Germany are also without their best player, Alex Zverev having been a long-standing critic of the new format. He’ll instead be playing exhibitions against Roger Federer over the coming week. That leaves them light on singles quality, although Struff and Kohlschreiber won’t be beaten easily. Doubles specialists Krawietz and Mies arrive straight from the ATP Finals and are among the world’s best. They could be the difference in this group.
Team: Cristian Garin, Nicolas Jarry, Alejandro Tabilo, Marcelo Tomas Barrios, Hans Podlipnik
A five-man squad will be in Madrid but effectively Chile are a two-man team. Garin, who has enjoyed a fine season, and Jarry are likely to have to play singles and doubles as long as the latter is still live. That is likely to undermine their outright chances. Don’t rule them out of winning this group, though. Both Garin and Jarry will compete against their group opponents, no doubt, although both would rather be playing on clay.
Team: David Goffin, Kimmer Coppejans, Sander Gille, Joran Vliegen, Steve Darcis
Belgium made great use of the old home-and-away format, the home ties (and surface choice) helping them reach two of the last four finals. David Goffin was a major player in those runs but he’s not enjoyed the best of seasons and indoor hard is far from ideal for him too. This competition has brought the best out of Steve Darcis in the past and it will need to again for Belgium to challenge.
Team: Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios, John Millman, Jordan Thompson, John Peers
— Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals (@DavisCupFinals) November 15, 2019
Undoubted favourites in this group, Australia should be considered contenders for the trophy. I say should for good reason. Nick Kyrgios is a world-class player on his day but too often he’s not focused. He’s also not played for seven weeks following an injury. However, he’s thrived before in a team environment and the Madrid altitude will help his big-serving game. Top-20 star Alex de Minaur has been active and reached the final of the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan earlier this month. With good back up and a doubles expert in John Peers, the Aussies hold strong claims.
Team: Alejandro Gonzalez, Santiago Giraldo, Juan Sebastian Cabal, Robert Farah, Daniel Galan
Boast the world’s best doubles team in Cabal and Farah but sadly for the Colombians the pair can only win one point per tie. The team will also need a singles point but it’s hard to see where it will come from with their highest-ranked player being Galan at 191. Were clay in use at the Caja Magica then you could make a case for him or Giraldo nicking a rubber. As it is, they look lambs to the slaughter on indoor hard.
Team: Dan Evans, Andy Murray, Jamie Murray, Neal Skupski, Kyle Edmund
Andy Murray carried GB to Davis Cup glory in 2015 and his post-injury resurgence gives them a chance four years on. Significantly, due to his injury-hit ranking, Murray will play as number two here which increases his chance of winning every singles rubber. If he does, GB will in be in every tie heading into the doubles where Murray could form a formidable team with his brother Jamie. Having Evans or Edmund playing as number one may ultimately prove their downfall but Leon Smith’s team look a decent price, particularly given their soft group draw.
Team: Alexander Bublik, Mikhail Kukushkin, Dmitry Popko, Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Andrey Golubev
Have been great over-achievers in this competition over the past decade so shouldn’t be easily dismissed. The indoor conditions should be enjoyed by rising star Bublik and Kukushkin, veteran of many a Davis Cup campaign. History shows they’ve also notched unexpected doubles wins. The Kazakhs have regularly outperformed their individual rankings in this competition and so won’t be fazed having landed in one of the weaker groups.
Team: Robin Haase, Tallon Griekspoor, Botic van de Zandschulp, Wesley Koolhof, Jean-Julien Rojer
Boast doubles expertise aplenty with Koolhof, Rojer and Haase all in the top 31 of the rankings but singles wins look like they will be much harder to come by. Haase is a threat on his day, although he’s endured a tough season, and has been found wanting mentally on many an occasion. Not without hope but the Dutch look unlikely to make the last eight.
Team: Frances Tiafoe, Jack Sock, Reilly Opelka, Taylor Fritz, Sam Querrey
Top seeds in a tricky group, the US are without their top-ranked player, John Isner, whose big serve would have been useful at such altitude. However, they still have big serving weapons in recent Basel semi-finalist Reilly Opelka, Taylor Fritz and Sam Querrey, plus Jack Sock in doubles. If the courts play quick, the US will have a puncher’s chance, although that lack of star quality will probably cost them at some point.
Team: Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Lorenzo Sonego, Andreas Seppi, Simone Bolelli
Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner isn’t in the Italian team which is a blow to both the nation’s chances and the Madrid fans given how well he played in Milan. Italy still have a strong team with Berrettini and Fognini both spellbinding on their day. Fognini and Bolelli have won a Grand Slam doubles title together too. However, the indoor hardcourts won’t give them their best chance to shine.
Team: Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov, Brayden Schnur, Vasek Pospisil
First hit for @felixtennis! 💥
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) November 14, 2019
Like Russia, Canada look to have a bright future. However, unlike Russia I don’t like their chances in 2019. They’ve lost Milos Raonic to injury and Auger-Aliassime – the world’s top-ranked teenager – missed Vienna, Paris and Milan due to an ankle injury so hasn’t played for six weeks. If he’s struggling, Canada don’t have the depth to cope and even if he does play a lot rests on him and Shapovalov, who admittedly ended the season in great form indoors.
To finalise a tip, we also need to know the knockout draw and the bracket is already set like this:
#DavisCupMadridFinals QF draw template:
Winner A v RU1 or RU2
Winner D v Winner F
Winner E v Winner C
RU1 or RU2 v Winner B
So @GBtennis seeded to meet Argenina in QFs & Croatia in the SFs
— Andy Schooler (@SchoolerSport) February 14, 2019
GB can win again
The conclusion drawn, pardon the pun, is that Great Britain have been fortunate with the draw.
Given they also look to have a strong team with a top-class player who is back in form, the 2015 champions look worthy of each-way support at 14/1.
Playing as number two, Andy Murray is likely to win most if not all of his singles matches if he keeps up the form he showed when winning in Antwerp recently. He and brother Jamie will also prove a tough doubles act, while even Murray senior and his regular partner Neal Skupski will be formidable if they are chosen to play.
Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund are capable of winning singles matches too.
GB should win their group and if they do so they will likely face Argentina or Germany, both of whom are without their best players.
Look who is here 🤩🇬🇧
— Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals (@DavisCupFinals) November 13, 2019
The semis would be tougher, one suspects, with Russia or Spain possibly waiting at that stage.
I fancy the Russians to upset the hosts in the group stage and they were very much on the shortlist.
However, given they are down to 11/2 I feel there’s little value to be had now, particularly given they are far from certain to even make the knockout stage.
Aussies look ace
Instead, my pick from top of the market is Australia at 7/1.
They have a well-rounded squad with in-form top-20 star Alex De Minaur playing as number one and Nick Kyrgios at two.
The latter may be a tad rusty but he’s been training with the rest of the squad in Milan over the past week and has always said team events bring out the best in him, as evidenced at the Laver Cup.
Kyrgios has the ability to beat anyone when dialled in and while there’s always risk involved when backing him (or his team), the team atmosphere and conditions at altitude should bring out the best in him.
Australia should ease through their group before like facing USA in the quarter-finals. France or Serbia could await in the last four.
It’s not as good looking draw as Great Britain’s but I’m still happy to put them on the coupon.