The 2016 Davis Cup starts on March 4th as the World Group will face its opening round. After looking at the top half of the draw earlier this week, I felt that Serbia had a fantastic draw to the final. Looking now at the bottom half of the 2016 Davis Cup draw, I see one giant, a multitude of solid teams, and a couple of others that have seen their top talents lost to injury.
The giant is France, the nation that has featured the deepest cast of talent for several years now. French nominations feature four players that are all in the Top 20 on tour in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils, and Gilles Simon. They are the clear favorites to advance to the final this season on the bottom half of the draw, especially with the first-round draw that they have picked up.
The French will host Canada (clay, outdoor), a country that had a good Davis Cup run a couple of years ago. However, Canada does not have the depth that France has and accordingly one injury is enough to basically wreck their Davis Cup chances. Furthermore, the French side features adept clay courters, especially in Tsonga and Monfils, who have each made the French Open semifinals in the past.
But in regard to injury, Milos Raonic pulled out of the competition in late February with an abductor problem. Furthermore, Daniel Nestor, the doubles expert, has pulled out as well. With Vasek Pospisil leading the charge, Canada has only a glimmer of hope in their tie against France. Frank Dancevic, Philip Bester, and one Adil Shamasdin do not have what it takes to beat any of the French nominations even if Canada was hosting. If the Canadian side were able to force a deciding rubber in this tie, I think that it would be shocking.
Australia is on the bottom half of the draw, and they will host the USA in Melbourne (grass, outdoor). However, the Aussies suffered a similar setback as the one the Canadian side suffered. Nick Kyrgios was one of the hottest players on tour in February as he took down his first ATP title. However Kyrgios has also pulled out of the Davis Cup, which has lead to some speculation that maybe Lleyton Hewitt will come out of retirement to act as a “playing captain.”
However, the rubbers in this tie are set, and they will feature Sam Groth and Bernard Tomic for singles with one John Peers mixed in for doubles, partnering Groth. The Americans send the Bryans to win their doubles match with Jack Sock and John Isner leading the way for singles.
All things considered, the Americans look like the favorites in this one. Isner is a stronger No. 1 than Tomic while Sock is a stronger No. 2 than Groth. In doubles, the Americans have the most proven team over the last decade in Bob and Mike Bryan, now ranked 6th in the world as their 38th birthdays loom.
In another tie Germany, still lead by Philipp Kohlschreiber, will host the Czechs in Hannover (hard, indoor). The latter team definitely has the stronger No. 1 as Tomas Berdych leads his country into another Davis Cup season. The Czechs also look like a deep team as they have Lukas Rosol, Jiri Vesely, and Radek Stepanek. The Germans might have the most talented player in Alexander Zverev, however, the 18-year old remains unproven in big matches, still ranked outside of the Top 50. Dustin Brown and Philipp Petzschner round out the German side.
The last tie sees Belgium, the runner-ups from 2015, host Croatia in Liege (clay, indoor). Croatia’s nominations look a lot better than Belgium’s with Marin Cilic, Borna Coric, and Ivan Dodig. The Belgiums have David Goffin, Kimmer Coppejans, Ruben Bemelmans, and one Arthur De Greef rounding out their side. I like the Croats a lot to win this tie, even on the road, as I feel that Coric brings a lot more as a No. 2 player than anyone on the Belgian side of things after Goffin.
Round two of the 2016 Davis Cup goes in mid-July, and the semifinals are scheduled for September. On the bottom half, I don’t see the Belgians repeating their finals appearance with the French and the Czechs the favorites in my view.