Igor Sijsling is hoping home advantage will be enough to help Netherlands retain its World Group status when the nation takes on Croatia in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-offs on 12-14 September.
The world No. 72 knows his side are up against a stern test in the form of Zeljko Krajan’s team, who will be desperate to bounce back into the top tier of the competition after seeing their five-year stay in the World Group ended at the hands of Great Britain in last year’s play-offs.
Croatia will likely be led by world No. 16 Marin Cilic, with the likes of No. 52 Ivan Dodig, promising youngster Borna Coric and rising doubles stars Mate Pavic and Martin Draganja also available to call on.
“It’s a strong team that we’re playing but we’ve got the home advantage,” said Sijsling, an Amsterdam native. “I think that we have a strong team too and we’ll have to play our best tennis to beat them.
“But we’re playing in a beautiful stadium. It’s my home town, so I’m hoping for a big crowd to support us.”
This year, Netherlands featured in the World Group for the first time since 2009, ultimately losing a narrow battle with Czech Republic when Tomas Berdych won all three of the rubbers he contested to help the hosts squeak a 3-2 victory on home soil in Ostrava.
A win over Croatia would ensure Netherlands feature in the World Group for two years running for the first time since 2005-06, when the Czechs, again, were responsible for sending them packing into Europe/Africa Zone Group I.
Netherlands' most recent Davis Cup loss still plays heavily on Sijsling’s mind. He managed just six games in a 63 63 60 second rubber defeat to Berdych, and the 27-year-old Dutchman is more than aware that he could be tasked with facing a similarly lofty ball-striker in the form of the Croatian No. 1, against whom he has a 0-4 win loss record at Tour-level.
“My last match I played against Berdych and he was way too strong for me,” Sijsling admitted. “But I enjoy playing Davis Cup. It’s a great atmosphere. I don’t know who [Croatia] are bringing but if they bring Cilic, he’s a guy that I haven’t done so well against so for me it will be a tough tie.”