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No Federer, Nadal or Djokovic but plenty at stake in Davis Cup

By AFP - Feb 01,2018 - Last updated at Feb 01,2018

Marin Cilic of Croatia will represent his country against Canada at the Davis Cup (Reuters photo)

PARIS — Just five days after the conclusion of the Australian Open, tennis shifts its attention to the Davis Cup this weekend.

France is the defending champion and starts its campaign at home to the Netherlands while the United States, the record 32-time champions, travels to Serbia.

AFP Sports looks at five key aspects of the first round ties which take place through Sunday:

 

Stars miss out

 

The sport’s “big five” are all missing from this week’s first round. Australian Open champion Roger Federer and injured compatriot Stan Wawrinka, key men in Switzerland’s 2014 title success, miss the trip to Kazakhstan.

Also nursing injuries are Novak Djokovic, who sits out Serbia’s home tie with the US while Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray miss the clash between Spain and Britain.

However, World No. 3 Marin Cilic, the runner-up to Federer in Melbourne, leads Croatia’s challenge at home to Canada. Cilic can equal Ivan Ljubicic’s record for most Davis Cup match-wins by a Croatian player if he wins three rubbers this weekend. He has a 33-16 win-loss record in doubles and singles.

 

Hungary have appetite

 

Hungary face 2017 runners-up Belgium looking to reach the World Group quarter-finals for the first time and record their best Davis Cup result. The Hungarians have won nine of their last 10 ties with successive promotions in 2014-15, rising from Europe/Africa Zone Group III to Group I by 2016, before winning promotion to the World Group last year.

 

Mum’s word 

for Japan’s Kiwi

 

Ben McLachlan was born in Queenstown, New Zealand but the 25-year-old switched his allegiance in 2017 due to his Japanese mother and is in the squad for the home tie against Italy. McLachlan made his debut in the World Group play-off victory against Brazil in September. With Japan missing the injured Kei Nishikori, McLachlan could have a crucial role having made the semifinals of the doubles at the Australian Open alongside Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

 

Golden oldie Hewitt

 

He may be 36 years old and officially retired, but former World No. 1 and Wimbledon and US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt could still feature in the doubles for Australia in its home tie against Germany. Hewitt, the team captain, was rejuvenated at the Australian Open where he made the quarter-finals with compatriot Sam Groth.

Hewitt has had enough talking about Bernard Tomic. Nor did he want any of his Davis Cup squad buying into the ongoing drama engulfing their former comrade when they fronted the media for the draw in Brisbane on Thursday. 

When the inevitable Tomic question was tossed up to Nick Kyrgios, Hewitt came over the top to interject. 

“We’re not going to go there. These boys have enough to worry about. We’ve got nothing to say,” Hewitt said. 

 

France look to keep perfect record

 

 

Defending champion France hosts the Netherlands at Albertville boasting a 10-0 record in the tournament over their European rivals since its first meeting 93 years ago. Last year, France equalled Great Britain in third place on the list for most Davis Cup titles after winning the title for the 10th time, beating Belgium 3-2 in the final in Lille.

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