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Davis Cup Qualifiers preview: Thiem suits up for Austria vs. Croatia; Wawrinka faces Zverev in Germany
Plus, is the Netherlands this year's dark horse to win the title?
Published Feb 03, 2023
Twelve Davis Cup Finals qualifiers will be played out across the globe this weekend. In a special edition of ‘Three to See’, here’s what to watch for:
Croatia vs. Austria
The hosts come in as the favorites here even without the sidelined Maric Cilic, boasting Borna Coric and the formidable duo of Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic. Croatia, the top seed among the countries competing in this phase of the event, reached the semifinals last year after contesting the final in 2021, but arguably the biggest question in this qualifier is what will Dominic Thiem bring to the table? The Austrian is more than capable of delivering the goods on indoor hard courts, though is still looking to recapture the form that propelled him to the Top 5 and a US Open title after undergoing wrist surgery in 2021.
Germany vs. Switzerland
These neighboring nations meet in Trier, with the Germans seeded at No. 4. This indoor tie may very well be as much about the performances of each nation’s star player as it will the unsung heroes. That said, the scheduled rubber between Alexander Zverev and Stan Wawrinka is the one to keep an eye on here. Neither standout had the Australian swing they envisioned—combining to go 2-5 Down Under. Yet when one plays for their country, things can quickly turn on a dime. But for whom? One might be inclined to forecast Wawrinka, who has extra motivation to overturn a 0-4 lifetime record against the two-time ATP Finals champion.
Netherlands vs. Slovakia
Had Casper Ruud participated, we might have suggested Norway’s home tie against a Novak Djokovic-less Serbia. Let’s instead head to Groningen. The 10th-seeded Dutch squad could be a dark horse for the title later in the year if they clear this important hurdle. Botic van de Zandschulp is injured, but Tallon Griekspoor and Tim van Rijthoven are here, as are co-doubles world No. 1 Wesley Koolhof and Top 20 doubles player Matwe Middelkoop. Alex Molcan heads up the visiting country’s response and may just have something to say about emerging as this weekend's spoiler.
Who else is playing?
Fresh off a semifinal run at the Australian Open, Tommy Paul headlines a heavily-favored U.S. team in Uzbekistan. Rajeev Ram, the man Paul slighted in a deleted tweet last November after the Americans were knocked out (Ram was controversially left off the team after winning the ATP Finals), is also back. Jiri Lehecka, who impressed with his last eight run in Melbourne, guides the Czech Republic on the road against Portugal. And Great Britain fields a strong lineup with Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans, Jack Draper, Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury. Colombia, led by Grand Slam doubles champions Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, will hope a red clay surface and home crowd advantage help counteract significant ranking gaps between their singles competitors and the experienced British veterans.
Elsewhere, Australian Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas and fellow Top 10 peer Holger Rune are anchoring ties at home in World Group 1 Play-offs action. Greece welcomes Ecuador and Denmark hosts India.