Australian spearhead Bernard Tomic will open hostilities in Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane against the Republic of Korea, to start the second-round action in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Zone Group I.
The 36th-ranked Tomic takes on Min-Hyeok Cho, playing his first live Cup rubber. “I don’t know a lot about him,” Tomic admitted of his 25-year-old opponent, a double-hander off both wings. “That’s when it can be tough. Everyone plays better in Davis Cup … Hopefully I get up tomorrow.”
“Bernard thrives in adversity, he loves the pressure, he loves the crowd,” said Aussie captain Pat Rafter, leading his team into battle at the stadium that bears his name.
The 19-year-old Tomic continues to court controversy, with his appeal to the umpire to eject his father John from the stadium during his loss to David Ferrer in Miami, and another court hearing over his traffic violations from last January - though his presence was not required.
But the talented trickster has always shone in the team environment of Davis Cup. His only loss in six Cup singles rubbers was to Roger Federer in the World Group play-offs last September. “Being in a team is a huge feeling,” Tomic enthused. “Being the leader of the team is a responsibility.”
No.2 Aussie Matt Ebden, who made his winning Cup debut in a dead rubber against China in the first round, will meet Suk-Young Jeong in the second rubber. The West Australian is ranked a career-high No. 75; the Korean, who turns 19 next week, is No.730.
Ebden, who upset No.8 Mardy Fish at Indian Wells for his first Top 10 scalp, is drawing inspiration this week from Cup warrior Lleyton Hewitt, sidelined after another round of surgery on his mangled left toe but in Brisbane to mentor the team.
“I’ve learned a lot from him over the past few years,” Ebden said of the 31-year-old former No. 1. “I think a lot of my development probably is credited to being around him. He’s a huge inspiration for me on and off the court. Even this week he’s been helping me a lot. Having him around is a huge support and encouragement.”
In Saturday’s doubles rubber, Chris Guccione and Marinko Matosevic will pair for the first time, against Suk and Jae-Min Seol.
Thursday’s draw at Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary took the form of a sheepdog show. Pluto the Border Collie rounded up four sheep around a paddock and through a gate, with Tomic’s sheep the first through. Both teams then had some quality time with the koalas.
Play begins at 1pm local time on all three days of the tie at the Queensland Tennis Centre. The winner progresses to the World Group play-offs in September.
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The other Group I semifinal is between Uzbekistan and India, in Namangan. The Uzbeks have returned to the indoor clay of the Sport Complex Pahlavon, the same venue where they scored their only Cup win over India in 2007.
Uzbekistan is once again relying on its Top 50 star Denis Istomin, while India boasts Top 10 doubles standouts Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna.
Istomin, ranked No. 43, opens against Sanam Singh in the first rubber - a daunting Cup debut for the 24-year-old Singh, who is ranked No. 446.
Farrukh Dustov takes on Yuki Bhambri in the second rubber. Although little separates them in ranking - Dustov at No. 262, Bhambri at No. 295, the Uzbek is a vastly more experienced Davis Cup campaigner. The 19-year-old Bhambri has played just one Cup match, and that was a dead rubber in his debut back in 2009.
Dustov and Istomin return on Saturday for doubles against 38-year-old Paes, India’s leading Davis Cup match winner, and 32-year-old Bopanna, at No. 8 in doubles just one place behind his countryman.
Uzbekistan has reached the World Group play-offs five times, the last in 2009, but never advanced to the World Group. India reached Davis Cup finals in 1966, 1974 and 1987. India leads the series 2-1. Play starts at 10am local time.
The Grand Hotel in Kaohsiung was the venue for the draw of the play-off tie between Chinese Taipei and China. The winner will remain in Asia/Oceania Zone Group I; the loser takes on New Zealand in a relegation battle in September.
The host team’s No. 1, big-serving Tsung-Hua Yang, opens the tie against China’s pocket rocket Di Wu. Introductions were not necessary, since these two faced off in the last match between the two countries little more than a year ago, Wu pulling off a big upset in the decisive fifth rubber at Shanghai. The 21-year-old Yang, ranked No. 178, will be all too wary of Wu’s lowly ranking (No. 495) this time.
Jimmy Wang, his country’s leading Cup match winner - an impressive 17-6 in singles - takes on China’s flashy and fast-improving No. 1, Ze Zhang, in the second rubber.
In Saturday’s doubles, Hsin-Han Lee and Cheng-Peng Hsieh will face Zhang and Zhe Li.
Chinese Taipei leads their meetings 2-1. Play gets underway at 11am local time on the acrylic Kaohsiung Yangming Tennis Courts.