This Davis Cup by BNP Paribas weekend is chock-a-block with high quality and exciting tennis, which includes four Zone Group I ties with eight nations continuing their battles to avoid relegation.
In Bratislava, Slovak Republic are hosting Ukraine in what should be an interesting first-time matchup between the two nations.
And in a further twist, the two elected singles players from Slovak Republic – 86th-ranked Martin Klizan and 253rd-ranked Pavol Cervenak – have never played either of the two elected singles players from Ukraine – 63rd-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky and 153rd-ranked Illya Marchenko.
In doubles, the Slovak’s are putting up Filip Polasek and Igor Zelenay against Ukranian’s Sergiy Bubka and Stakhovsky.
Not that long ago the Slovak’s were featured in the World Group, but nowadays they’re working to fight their way back up the Davis Cup ladder. The country’s best result: reaching the World Group final in 2005, where they fell to Croatia 3-2 in a home tie in Bratislava.
The Ukraine’s best Davis Cup performance was reaching the 2009 World Group play-offs.
In another all-European tie, Finland is taking on Poland for the sixth time in Davis Cup action. Finland brings a slight 3-2 edge to the weekend.
Finland’s key player will be 30-year-old Jarkko Nieminen, who is currently ranked No. 45, but has been ranked as high as No. 13 in the past. He brings the weightiest experience of the four singles players named, but has never played either the 457th-ranked Grzegorz Panfil or 176th-ranked Jerzy Janowicz. Nieminen is also scheduled to play doubles, which makes for a tiring weekend for the Finn.
The 281st-ranked Henri Kontinen will back up Nieminen in singles, but Nieminen will pair with Harri Heliovaara in the doubles. The other advantage Finland has is home court advantage in the city of Espoo.
So what’s Poland’s ace in this tie?
That would be the seasoned doubles pairing of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski, who are currently 11th-ranked in doubles. The duo had a successful run at the recent U.S. Open by reaching the final where they fell to Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner in straight sets.
It might not seem like much, but if one of their singles players can get on the board on Friday, most players know the doubles can be the pivotal match to sway a tie.
Finland have been in the World Group play-offs three times in the past and Poland’s best performance has been reaching the Europe/Africa Zone Group I second round, a feat they’ve achieved six times.
In Americas Zone competition, Ecuador face off against Mexico in Guayaquil. Ecuador were previously a World Group quarterfinalist in 1985 when 1990 French Open champion Andres Gomez competed for the country.
Mexico’s best Davis Cup showing was reaching the 1962 final when Rafael Osuna and Tony Palafox (John McEnroe’s career coach) led the team. They fell to Australia, in Australia, without even getting on the scoreboard.
In this weekend’s tie there aren’t household names such as Osuna and Palafox, but there will be players determined to win for their country.
Representing Ecuador in singles are the 339th-ranked Julio-Cesar Campozano and the 458th-ranked Ivan Endara. Representing Mexico is 483rd-ranked Cesar Ramirez and 356th-ranked Daniel Garza.
The Ecuadorians are teaming Campazano with Roberto Quiroz in the doubles, and Mexico are going with the duo of Santiago Gonzalez and Ramirez.
In the final Zone I Group tie, Philippines are hosting Chinese Taipei in a sixth meeting between the two countries. Philippines hold a substantial 4-1 advantage in Davis Cup.
The elder statesman of this tie is 35-year-old Cecil Mamiit, Los Angles, California born-and-raised, but is of Philippine descent so plays for the Philippines. In 1999, Mamiit attained a career high ranking of No. 72, but since he only competes in Davis Cup now he no longer holds a ranking.
The other singles player from Philippines, Treat Huey, ranks No. 901. Chinese Taipei’s singles players are 293rd-ranked Ti Chen and 389th-ranked Jimmy Wang. In doubles, Philippines will field Ruben Gonzales and Jeson Patrombon against Wang and Chu-Huan Yi.
The fields are all set. The action is bound to be exciting. So, as they say, let the games begin, which they will do on Friday.