There is Davis Cup action this weekend taking place across the globe with last year’s finalists both playing with a home-court advantage as defending champions France host the Netherlands in Albertville, and runners-up Belgium host Hungary in Liege.
Some nations are missing their biggest stars with Spain hosting Great Britain without an injured Rafael Nadal, and the Brits fielding a team without Andy Murray, who is recovering from hip surgery.
Serbia are Novak Djokovic-less in their home tie against USA while Switzerland face Kazakhstan sans Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.
Here’s a look at the standout statistics ahead of this weekend’s Davis Cup World Group matches.
1 – Spain’s top player this weekend in their tie against Great Britain, Pablo Carreno Busta, has won just one of the four live rubbers he has ever contested in Davis Cup.
1 – win and four losses for Germany’s top man this weekend, Alexander Zverev, in Davis Cup.
2 – Only twice have all five rubbers of a Davis Cup tie gone to 5 sets – the 1946 European Zone semi-final that saw Yugoslavia defeat France 3-2 and the 2003 World Group play-off when Romania defeated Ecuador 3-2.
2 – Japan are bidding to reach the World Group quarter-finals for just the second time.
3 – France joined Great Britain in third place on the list of most Davis Cup titles won when they triumphed over Belgium in the final last year to claim a 10th trophy in the competition.
4 – Serbia have won four of their last five home ties. They host USA in Nis this weekend.
5 – years since Serbia have last won a tie on clay. They play USA on indoor clay this weekend.
5 – Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut is on a five-match winning streak in Davis Cup. He’ll be looking to extend that when they face GB this weekend in Marbella.
5 – Great Britain are looking to reach the quarter-finals for a fifth straight year.
5 – Australia have played five of their last six ties at home. They host Germany in Brisbane this weekend.
5 – Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has won five of his last six Davis Cup rubbers, with the only loss coming against David Goffin in the semi-finals last year.
6 – hours and 43 minutes, is the length of the longest singles rubber in Davis Cup history. It took place when Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer defeated Brazil’s Joao Souza in the World Group first round in 2015.
7 – France have won seven of their last eight home ties in Davis Cup.
7 – Great Britain’s Jamie Murray has won seven of his last eight Davis Cup doubles rubbers.
9 – France are bidding to reach the quarter-finals for a ninth consecutive year.
10 – wins and 0 losses for France against the Netherlands in their Davis Cup history. They square off in Albertville, France this weekend. Their most recent meeting was in 2009.
10 – comebacks from 0-2 down in Davis Cup World Group ties have ever been completed. Sweden has produced four of these comebacks. Croatia recorded the most recent one, defeating USA in Portland in the quarter-finals in 2016.
13 – Andreas Seppi is competing in Davis Cup for the 13th year, putting him joint-third on the list for most years played by an Italian player, along with current captain Corrado Barazzutti.
14 – Great Britain and Spain are meeting for a 14th time in Davis Cup but the first since 1986. The Brits lead their head-to-head 8-5.
15 – nations in total have ever won the Davis Cup with USA leading with 32 title wins in the competition.
17 – Belgium’s David Goffin has won 17 of his last 18 Davis Cup singles rubbers.
24 – wins and 10 losses for Marin Cilic in Davis Cup singles rubbers – the most by any Croatian. He could equal Ivan Ljubicic’s record for most Davis Cup match wins by a Croatian player (in singles and doubles) if he triumphs in three rubbers this weekend against Canada in Osijek.
25 – Italy’s Fabio Fognini could reach 25 Davis Cup match wins if he claims a rubber this weekend against Japan. He is currently 24-11 overall in the competition and has competed for his nation every year since 2008.
25 – years since Germany last won the Davis Cup (they are three-time champions in the competition).
28 – years since Belgium and Hungary last squared off in Davis Cup. Their last meeting was in 1990, before seven of the nine players nominated for this weekend’s tie in Liege were born.
86 – years since Japan and Italy had last played each other in Davis Cup. They face off this weekend in Morioka.
— Fabio Fognini (@fabiofogna) January 30, 2018
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The Australian Open just ended but the travelling circus that is the tennis circuit is already onto its next stop with two WTA tournaments taking place this week in St. Petersburg and Taipei and Davis Cup first round action held this weekend across the world.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille will lead reigning champions France, who are hosting the Netherlands in Albertville from February 2-4 while a Nick Kyrgios-led Australia face visiting Germany – spearheaded by Alexander Zverev – in Brisbane.
Freshly-crowned Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki is top seed in St. Petersburg, where French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, and French duo Caroline Garcia and defending champion Kristina Mladenovic are also competing.
China’s Peng Shuai headlines the field in Taipei.
These are the main storylines to look out for during the upcoming period on the tennis tour…
New mum Serena Williams plans on making her first competitive appearance since her Australian Open victory 12 months ago next month (February 10-11) in USA’s Fed Cup first round tie against the Netherlands in Asheville. The Americans are the reigning champions and have brought in their very best to face the Dutch, with Serena joined by her sister Venus, alongside Coco Vandeweghe. It will be Serena’s first Fed Cup showing since 2015, and should ease her back into competition before she heads to Indian Wells in March, which will be her first WTA tournament since Auckland in January 2017.
Serena had her first child, Alexis Olympia, last September. She played an exhibition match against Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi in December but opted out of defending her Australian Open title saying she wasn’t ready yet to compete at the highest level.
While she will technically have no ranking, having been out of action for over 12 months, Serena can enter tournaments using her Special Ranking, which is the one she had before going on maternity leave. In her case, her Special Ranking is No. 1 and she can use it to enter as many as eight tournaments. She will be unseeded in draws though.
Victoria Azarenka’s comeback from maternity leave was derailed last year because of a custody dispute that prevented her from travelling with her son Leo out of California. Azarenka has reportedly made headway in the case and has accepted a wildcard into the Qatar Open draw taking place from February 12-17.
The Belarusian ex-world No. 1 has played just two events since having her baby in December 2016. Doha will be her first tournament since Wimbledon last July, where she made the fourth round. Her ranking is currently 208 in the world. Azarenka’s Special Ranking is No. 6 and she can still use it to enter seven tournaments before June 18, 2018. Like Serena, Azarenka will be unseeded in draws.
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) January 22, 2018
BATTLE FOR ATP NO. 1
If Roger Federer accepts a wildcard into any tournament in February, he has a chance to overtake Rafael Nadal at the top of the rankings, with only 155 points currently separating them. Federer lost in his second match in Dubai last year so only has 45 points to defend next month and has a real chance to get back to No. 1 in the world for the first time since 2012 if he decides to play a tournament before Indian Wells.
But even if he doesn’t play, he can still get to No. 1 without hitting a ball if Nadal, who is recovering from a hip injury, doesn’t defend his runner-up points in Acapulco (starts February 26).
We are yet to hear from Team Djokovic on what the Serb has decided to do regarding his lingering elbow problem. Novak Djokovic fell to Chung Hyeon in the Australian Open fourth round, while suffering from elbow pain that had kept him out of the game for six months. Will Djokovic go for surgery? Will he need another extended break? We should know more in February.
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 22, 2018
WOZNIACKI’S POST-SLAM FORM
We’ve seen it many times before; a player wins her first major then suffers a dip in form. American Sloane Stephens hasn’t won a match since lifting the US Open trophy last September. She’s 0-8 since. Can Wozniacki keep up her motivation after finally clinching a maiden Grand Slam title and returning to the top of the rankings? We sure hope so.
The Swiss defending champion dropped his only sets of the tournament before completing a 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over the sixth seeded Croatian in 3hr 3min.
Federer, playing in his 30th Grand Slam final, joined Novak Djokovic and Australian great Roy Emerson as joint top for the most Australian Open men’s titles.
“I’m so happy it’s unbelievable. This is a dream come true, the fairytale continues for me,” Federer said at the presentation.
“After the great year last year, it’s incredible,” the 36-year-old added as he broke down in tears.
Federer added to his already imposing win-loss record in Melbourne and is now 94-13. His overall his Grand Slam mark stands at 332-52.
“It was an amazing journey to come to the final. It could have been the best two weeks of my life, but Roger played a great fifth set,” Cilic said.
“I want to thank my team, you’re unbelievable. We worked hard for this year, hopefully we will lift these trophies in the future.”
The roof was closed over Rod Laver Arena as the tournament’s heat policy was implemented amid evening temperatures of 38°C.
Cilic’s serve came under immediate pressure with a whipping backhand return winner for break point which the Croatian followed with a smash into the net for a break in the opening game.
The Croat was finding it difficult to settle and changed racquets in his second service game, but it had no obvious benefit as he dropped serve again after three break points to trail 0-3.
He finally held serve to get on the board but the Swiss star was too good, serving out the set in just 24 minutes after a shaky Cilic opening.
Federer fought off two break points in his opening service in the second set with pinpoint serves, while Cilic had a tussle before holding in the third game.
Cilic worked his way back into the match as both players traded furious forehands to stay on serve. Cilic was break point down in the ninth, but crucially got out of it with a second serve ace down the middle followed by a forehand winner.
The Croat had a big moment in the 10th game when two Federer double faults gave him set point, but a tentative backhand into the net and a wild backhand cost him his chance.
In the tiebreaker, Cilic got to two set points when his forehand clipped the line before a winning smash levelled the match as Federer dropped his first set of the tournament.
But Cilic lost serve on the back of a couple of ground stroke errors and Federer raced 4-2 up in the third set.
The defending champion shifted gears with a stunning forehand off his toes and confidently held serve to lead 5-2 before clinically serving out the set in 29 minutes.
Cilic was then broken in the opening game of the fourth set with a poor backhand dropshot into the net as Federer closed in for the kill.
But the Croat broke back in the sixth game with three break points when Federer netted and fought off a break point in the next game to put his nose in front.
Cilic was now more in the flow and broke Federer again with his big forehands starting to find their mark. He served it out to take the absorbing final into a fifth.
But Federer stayed calm and produced quality backhands to hold on to his serve amid mounting tension.
The world No.2 crucially broke to 2-0 and got a vital double break when Cilic netted a forehand, leaving him to serve out for the championship.
Provided by AFP Sport