Dutch No. 1 Robin Haase will face in-form Andreas Haider Maurer in the opening rubber of the Netherlands v Austria World Group play-off tie of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, in which the Austrians consider the Dutch the slight favourites to win and the Dutch think the chances are even. In the second rubber, Austrian No. 1 Jurgen Melzer will play Thiemo de Bakker.
Dutch captain Jan Siemerink was content that his No. 1 player Haase will contest the first rubber on Friday, as it will give Haase more recovery time for a possible doubles rubber on Saturday. As it stands now, Jesse Huta Galung and Jean-Julien Rojer will play the Austrian doubles team of Melzer and Oliver Marach, but if need be and if possible, Haase will play in Huta Galung’s stead.
The press conference after the draw was a predictable game of mind games –‘Favourites - us?’ versus ‘Underdogs - them?’ – if such a thing exists between two sets of players and coaches who are visibly on friendly terms with each other.
“Maybe they like the underdog position,” Haase said, “but if I had to choose I’d give them a few percentage points more (of a chance).”
Asked by a reporter whether he felt an extra responsibility to perform well because he is the highest-ranked player of the tie (No. 27), Melzer shook his head and returned the question: “Why would you say that?” Pointing to his record on clay courts this season and using a rich array of adjectives like “disappointing”, “horrible”, “sad”, “poor”, “frustrating”, “not great” in the process, Melzer made a decent case that he and his country aren’t in fact the favourites for the tie.
“But I thank you for your confidence in me and for putting this pressure on my shoulders,” he added jokingly.
Melzer has put some frustrating injuries behind him, and has been playing well on American hard ourts over the last few weeks, beating Friday’s opponent de Bakker only three weeks ago in Winston-Salem, on the way to recording the fifth ATP title of his career. In fact, de Bakker had to withdraw in the third set of that match with a toe injury, which has since healed fully and won’t be troubling him this weekend, the Dutchman said.
De Bakker hadn’t expected to feature in the tie but he became an option for Dutch captain Siemerink after prospective No. 2 Igor Sijsling decided not to feature this weekend after a string of bad results. Exactly why Sijsling decided not to play here remains murky, as Siemerink, who has spoken with the player at length, didn’t want to elaborate on the subject. Earlier this week he made clear he wasn’t pleased with Sijsling’s decision, but now it was time for the captain to look at the players who are actually willing to play.
So why choose de Bakker over the higher-ranked Huta Galung? Siemerink: “There isn’t much between them, but Thiemo has performed better against stronger opponents than Jesse has.”
The Austrians also had a player pull out of the tie – the promising Dominic Thiem decided against taking part because of a dispute about money with the Austrian tennis federation. Melzer didn’t take any trouble to hide his disappointment on the Austrian sports website Sport10, saying “I used to be a fan of his. But for someone like me who has always, no matter what, played in the Davis Cup, it’s difficult to understand the decision.”
The Dutch are bidding to return to the World Group after an absence of four years, while Austria will fight to retain its place among the elite. Amazingly, this is these two nations first meeting in Davis Cup for 85 years, with Netherland winning their first encounter in 1928.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Robin Haase (NED) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
R2: Thiemo de Bakker (NED) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
R3: Jesse Huta Galung/Jean-Julien Rojer (NED) v Jurgen Melzer/Oliver Marach (AUT)
R4: Robin Haase (NED) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
R5: Thiemo de Bakker (NED) v Andreas Haider Maurer (AUT)
Captain Clemens Trimmel (AUT) - 12/09/2013
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) - 12/09/2013
Captain Jan Siemerink (NED) - 12/09/2013
Robin Haase (NED) - 12/09/2013