Sixteen countries competed this weekend in the first round of Davis Cup play. This “World Group” as the premier countries are collectively known, is comparable to the group of countries that make the World Cup in soccer, although Davis Cup takes place every year. Several important stories emerged from this weekend’s play.
United States 3, Australia 1
Team USA traveled to Melbourne to take on the Aussies on grass. Australia was without young standouts Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, both out due to injury. The Americans were anchored by John Isner and the Bryan brothers, who provided the necessary three points to advance the team to the quarterfinals.
Notably, Lleyton Hewitt became the first captain (Davis Cup speak for head coach) in recent memory to also play when he stepped in for doubles with John Peers against the Bryans. However, the Bryans were too much for Hewitt and Peers, breaking Peers in the fifth set and cruising to victory. The Bryans rarely lose in Davis Cup, and, together with Isner’s wins over Sam Groth and Bernard Tomic, managed to give Team USA the win.
Croatia 3, Belgium 2
Last year’s runner-up Belgium was upset by Croatia in Liège. David Goffin came out strong for the Belgians, winning both of his singles matches. However, Croatia would not be undone as they rode two singles victories and a doubles win to the overall team victory. Notably, Croatia’s clinching point came from teenager Borna Coric. Coric, 19, lost a tough five-setter in the opening rubber (match, in Davis Cup) to David Goffin, but comfortably provided Croatia the winning point with a straight sets victory. It has already been a landmark year for young players on tour—Nick Kyrgios won his first title in Marseille and Dominic Thiem beat Rafael Nadal on the way to winning in Buenos Aires—and that trend has now moved to Davis Cup. Look for more of Coric and the Croatian team in the quarterfinals.
Great Britain 3, Japan 1
Defending champion Great Britain moved to the quarterfinals with a victory over Japan at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham. Great Britain has struggled to find a second strong singles player and relies heavily on the Murray brothers for the three points needed for victory. This contest was just that sort of tie, with Andy Murray providing two singles points and a point in doubles by partnering with brother Jamie for a win. Murray clinched the match with a five-set victory over world number six Kei Nishikori in the reverse singles. If Great Britain can find a solid second singles player, they could become an impenetrable force—world No. 52 Aljaz Bedene has petitioned the International Tennis Federation to compete for Great Britain after receiving British citizenship last year.
In July, the quarterfinals will provide some blockbuster matchups. Foremost, the tie between Great Britain in Serbia in Serbia will likely feature a showdown between perennial top players Murray and Novak Djokovic.
The United States has struggled in Davis Cup for the past few years, having had to win to stay in the World Group at the end of last year. The Americans will host Croatia, with the chance to advance to their first semifinal since 2012.
France will play away at the Czech Republic in their quarterfinal match. Both sides consistently produce deep teams. This one will likely go the distance and will feature entertaining matches between Tomas Berdych and French players Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Gael Monfils.