Kazakhstan will be hoping to make history over the next three days as they look to qualify for the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group for the first time.
There has been a buzz of anticipation around the country leading into the tie with Switzerland, and the home crowd’s expectations will have risen dramatically following the news that Roger Federer won’t be taking any part in this match-up.
Stanislas Wawrinka will be carrying most of the visitors’ hopes following the world No. 3's decision to miss the encounter. However, the Swiss says he doesn’t feel under any extra pressure.
“It’s the first time in a long while Roger’s not playing the relegation round, but he’s missed ties before, so I’m used to being the number one for a number of years. I feel we have a great team, and we are all close friends, so I think this will be good for the weekend,” he said.
Wawrinka, who is fresh from a career-best quarterfinal appearance at the US Open, will certainly know what to expect against his opening singles opponent, Mikhail Kukushkin.
The world No. 20 dispatched the Kazakh easily in straight sets just two weeks ago in the first round at Flushing Meadows. However, the Swiss thinks this Davis Cup clash will be a much harder match.
“Here we will be playing indoors,” he said. “And he’s playing at home so I think it’s going to be tough for me as I’m still tired, and have a little injury, but I need to stay really focused on my game.”
Kukushkin knows Wawrinka is the favourite following their match at the US Open. With 61 places separating them in the world rankings, however, the 22-year-old says he has nothing to lose when the match gets underway.
“There has been so much expectation surrounding this match, as this is the first time my country has ever played a Davis Cup play-off tie,” said Kukushkin. “I’m sure there will be a lot of spectators over the weekend, and that they will really get behind our team.”
Kazakhstan’s No. 1, Andrey Golubev, will get proceedings underway in Friday’s opening rubber, when he takes on Marco Chiudinelli. Golubev said although he’s confident coming into the match, he expected a tough encounter.
However, the 23-year-old, who only gained Kazakh citizenship in 2008, has every right to feel positive, as he has enjoyed a successful year, which has seen him rise to 39 in the world rankings, just three places shy of his career best.
“I really believe in myself after this season, following my win in Hamburg, and I’ve won other important matches. I think I can beat really good players, but there’s a really big difference between what you think, and what you do on the court,” said Golubev.
Tennis in Kazakhstan has improved dramatically over the last few years, in no small part due to the likes of Golubev and Korolev deciding to play Davis Cup for the Kazakh national side and if they can pull off a victory over Switzerland over the next few days, the profile of what is a relatively new sport in the country will be raised even further.
The full draw is listed below.
Andrey Golubev (KAZ) v Marco Chiudinelli (SUI)
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) v Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)
Evgeny Korolev / Yuriy Schukin (KAZ) v Michael Lammer / Yves Allegro (SUI)
Andrey Golubev (KAZ) v Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) v Marco Chiudinelli (SUI)