Davis Cup semis preview: Swiss should snatch first title
In the world of tennis, 2014 has certainly been a year for ground-breaking achievements. Two out of the four Grand Slams this season have been won by new challengers and people out of the men’s ‘big four’, while Great Britain made a heroic effort in reaching the quarters of the Davis Cup.
All four countries left in this year’s competition (France, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Italy) have reached the final before, but the Swiss are the only nation not to have won. They are odds-on favourites at 4/6 to claim the trophy.
France v Czech Republic
The Czech Republic have amazingly won the last two Davis Cups, beating more fancied Serbia and Spain, and are 4/1 chances to get a hat-trick of titles. They first face France in the semi-finals, though.
Both nations are tied at 7-7 in their head-to-heads with each other, but it is home nation and nine-time champions France (playing on the red clay courts of Roland Garros) who go into the match as odds-on 1/3 favourites.
All four of their team members for this encounter (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau) are in the ATP singles top 30, although the Czechs (9/4 to win this semi) have the only top 10-ranked player of this fixture, Tomas Berdych.
The world number six will be ably assisted by teammates Lukas Rosol, Radek Stepanek and Jiri Vesely, as they look to course another shock.
Stepanek, who is now 35, spoke ahead of the match-up: “It’s special when you come here for a Grand Slam tournament and it’s definitely even more special for us to play here and play for our country. It’s even more special to play here in the semi-finals.”
France’s captain Arnaud Clement was very complimentary of his side’s upcoming opponents. “This is the best team in the world. One can’t win the Davis Cup twice in a row by chance. We’ll be trying to put their amazing run to an end.”
Switzerland v Italy
All-time great Roger Federer and his sidekick Stan Wawrinka (winner of the Australian Open this year), will lead the line for tournament favourites Switzerland against Davis Cup outsiders Italy (9/1).
Both countries, though, were lucky to reach this stage, after Kazakhstan (who lead 2-1) nearly shocked the Swiss, while the Italian Fabio Fognini overcame the odds to beat Andy Murray to prevent Great Britain from progressing.
Switzerland (runners-up in 1992) play hosts on their indoor hard courts in Geneva, with Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer the other two in their team. They are heavily odds-on for victory at 1/16. Winners in 1976 Italy (7/1), meanwhile, have called up Andreas Seppi, Paolo Lorenzi and Simone Bolelli, along with Fognini.
Federer, whose side trail 3-2 in head-to-heads with Italy, said confidently: “We obviously are favourites. We have a formidable team. We are playing at home and we chose the surface. We can do it.”