You have to tip your hat to Novak Djokovic. Just a week after securing his third straight Australian Open title, Djokovic has stepped up to help the Serbian Davis Cup effort. The Serbs are visiting Belgium, where they’ll be favored, but perhaps not by the margin you might expect—at least not in my view.
Djokovic will have to pull out of celebration/relaxation mode quicker than he ordinarily would, as the tie will be played on indoor red clay in Charleroi. Will Nole have the requisite patience?
The slow court will certainly boost the chances of the hosts, whose singles competitors—Olivier Rochus and David Goffin—are not just well-rested but better than competent. And Serbia will be without its strong No. 2, Janko Tipsarevic, who’s injured.
Goffin is a talented 22-year-old who rocketed into the direct-entry ranks last year at Roland Garros. A lucky loser, he made the fourth round before he lost in four sets to Roger Federer. He’s established himself firmly since then, and is presently ranked No. 50—just 11 ticks below Serbia’s No. 2, Viktor Troicki.
Rochus, Belgium’s No. 2, is a mere 5’6”, 32 years old, and ranked No. 127. But he’s made a living as a feisty underdog who often plays way above his head on big occasions—so, who knows? I wouldn’t count on a Belgian upset, but it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise in Davis Cup history, either.
That’s the beauty of Davis Cup. It’s unpredictable and streamlined enough that one unexpected upset can determine the outcome.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the other notable ties in this first round of World Group play, which commences on Friday:
Most Likely Upset: Czech Republic at Switzerland