Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka bring star power to Switzerland other nations will be lacking thanks to injuries and absences as the Davis Cup quarter-finals take place this weekend.
Federer, Wawrinka-led Switzerland Davis Cup favourites as injuries hit others hard
Injuries and unavailability have played havoc with the Davis Cup quarter-finals starting on Friday with two-time defending champions the Czech Republic up against it away to Japan.
The Czechs will be without star player and world No 5 Tomas Berdych, who opted out of playing to take a well-earned rest from the competition.
That leaves 40th-ranked Lukas Rosol as their lead singles player with backup from veteran campaigner Radek Stepanek.
That briefly installed the Japanese as favourites to continue their giant-killing run, but it ended with the news their No 1 player, Kei Nishikori, was out with a groin strain, an injury that forced him to forfeit in the semi-finals of the Miami Masters last weekend after defeating Roger Federer.
The Japanese, in the quarter-finals for the first time since the 16-nation world format was introduced in 1981, will look to Go Soeda to shoulder the burden of the lead singles role with youngster Taro Daniel called up.
Team coach Minoru Ueda tried to remain upbeat despite having his worst fears confirmed.
“Losing Kei has definitely hurt the team’s chances but we have to keep believing we can win,” he said. “I believe Taro has the potential to be a top-100 player. The other players have to step up now.”
Injuries have decimated the France v Germany tie which will take place in the eastern city of Nancy.
Germany have been particularly badly hit with their top three – Tommy Haas, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer – all unavailable.
The result has been a desperately untested lineup of Tobias Kamke, Jan-Lennard Struff, Peter Gojowczyk and Andre Begemann, with only Kamke having any previous Davis Cup experience.
France have lost their top-ranked player, Richard Gasquet, to injury but the 2001 winners have impressive strength in depth and can count on world No 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Julian Benneteau on the Nancy indoors hardcourts
The French have won the last six meetings between the two nations, including all four in the World Group, going back to 1938 for the last time that Germany won.
There are no such injury problems for Switzerland, who are favourites to lift the cup for the first time as they are able to count on the talents of Federer and Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka at home to Kazakhstan
The Swiss have only ever reached the Davis Cup final once - in 1992 when they lost to the United States 3-1 in Fort Worth - and Federer would love to add the team title to his honours list, which lacks only that and Olympic singles gold
Wawrinka acknowledges that Switzerland has its best chance in years to win a first Davis Cup title.
“We all know that we have a good opportunity, especially since Roger [Federer] is playing and I am playing,” Wawrinka said.
“We are not thinking already to the final, but we are, on paper, big favourites for this weekend.”
The remaining quarter-final sees Italy hosting a British team looking to win the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936 when Fred Perry was their inspiration.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray is the mainstay this time and he will likely have to win both his singles on the claycourts of Naples against Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi if Leon Smith’s team is to have any chance of reaching the last four.
“It will be a good challenge playing on the clay in Italy,” Murray, who recently split with coach Ivan Lendl, said.
“They have some very good clay-court players with a passionate crowd behind them.
“It will be a tough weekend and the games will be tight, but it’s great playing in big matches like this in the World Group,”
Japan v Czech Republic in Tokyo
Japan: Go Soeda, Tatsuma Ito, Yasutaka Uchiyama, Taro Daniel
Czech Republic: Lukas Rosol, Radek Stepanek, Jiri Vesely, Jan Hajek
France v Germany in Nancy
France: (From) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Michael Llodra
Tobias Kamke, Jan-Lennard Struff, Peter Gojowczyk and Andre Begemann
Italy v Britain in Naples
Italy: Fabio Fognini, Andreas Seppi, Paolo Lorenzi, Simone Bolelli
Britain: Andy Murray, James Ward, Dan Evans, Colin Fleming
Switzerland v Kazakhstan in Geneva
Switzerland: Roger Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka, Marco Chiudinelli, Henri Laaksonen
Kazakhstan: Mikhail Kukushkin, Andrey Golubev, Evgeny Korolev, Aleksandr Nedovyesov.
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