The Davis Cup – The World Cup of Tennis. From September 15-17, 2017, four teams vied for a spot in the 106th Davis Cup World Group finals, while nations losing in the quarterfinals battled to stay in the World Group league. For the first semifinal, Belgium and Australia faced off in Brussels. Meanwhile, in the second semifinal, France and Serbia met in Lille. Many expected easy victories for Australia and France, who have 28 and 9 Davis Cup titles, respectively. France cruised to a 3-1 victory, winning the best of five rubbers (the Davis Cup term for an individual match), and Belgium upset Australia by a score of 3-2.
In the Belgium-Australia match, World No. 12 David Goffin was looking to lead Belgium to another final after barely losing to Great Britain in 2015. Goffin first beat John Millman, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. Nick Kyrgios responded by overcoming Steve Darcis in a brutal five set match, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 6-1, 6-2. The British doubles combination of John Peers and Jordan Thompson easily beat the Belgian doubles team, forcing Goffin to step up his level of play. During Goffin’s match against Kyrgios, he was initially down 6-7, but ultimately secured the necessary break points to win the next three sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Kyrgios, who has taken down many top five players, said, “I can always do better, but Goffin was too good.” Leveled at 2-2, Steve Darcis, who has been playing some of his best tennis, performed well again, easily beating Jordan Thompson.
In the France-Serbia match, many expected an easy win for France as Novak Djokovic was injured and not playing this year. Dusan Lajovic shocked many when he beat Lucas Pouille, giving Serbia an early lead. However, his level of play did not transfer to his teammates, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France easily beating Laslo Djere. Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, the duo that won the 2016 Wimbledon and 2015 US Open doubles tournaments, easily won the Rubber 3 match. For the Rubber 4 match, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga led France to another Davis Cup final with his four-set victory over Dusan Lajovic.
Meanwhile, the World Group Playoffs occurred across many continents to determine next year’s World Group, which collectively represents the best teams from the three zones (the Americas, Europe/Africa, and Asia/Oceania). If they lose in the playoffs, teams can be relegated to the Group One zonal tournament. Argentina, the reigning champions and No. 1 seed, lost in a huge upset to Kazakhstan by a tally of 3-2, and will be relegated during Davis Cup 2018. The surprising result comes largely from Juan Martin Del Potro’s absence this year. The Netherlands also surprised many with their shocking victory over the No. 4 seeded Czech Republic, again attributed to the absence of a top player, Tomáš Berdych.
From November 24 to November 26, 2017, the Davis Cup finals will occur in France. The matchup between France and Belgium will be extremely close. The Davis Cup is unique, as players can cross over from singles to doubles in order to maximize their chances of winning. In 2014, Switzerland overcame France by only playing Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka across all matches, granting them a 3-1 victory. If Belgium only plays Steve Darcis and David Goffin, they will maximize their chances for obtaining Belgium’s first Davis Cup title.
If they do so, they would most likely face Tsonga and Pouille in Rubber 1, 2, 4, and 5, and Herbert and Mahut in Rubber 3, the doubles match. A Darcis-Goffin duo may be able to take down the Grand Slam-winning Herbert and Mahut duo. However, Pouille leads 3-0 against Goffin (all in 2016) and Tsonga leads 4-2 against him. Additionally, Darcis usually loses in early rounds and has not faced Pouille before or Tsonga since 2002. Come November, I predict a relatively easy 3-1 or 3-0 French victory to grant them a tenth Davis Cup title.