France the Davis Cup fancies
Our tipster Andy Schooler previews this year's Davis Cup, which starts on Friday, and makes France his headline picks.
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We landed a touch when tipping the Czech Republic at 25/1 to win last year's Davis Cup and now the search is on for another big-priced winner.
This could be a statement which comes back to haunt but it may not be as tough as it sounds.
Take a closer look at the top four in the market and you begin to realise that siding with the outsiders really could be the way to go.
Serbia, who have world number one Novak Djokovic at their disposal, are 5/2 favourites but that price appears to be based on Djokovic playing every tie which is far from certain.
It should be noted the semi-finals take place just four days after the US Open final, for example.
As for their first-round tie, Serbia are hardly dead certs to win on clay in Belgium. For a start, they are without the injured Janko Tipsarevic, while the jet-lagged Djokovic - who notably didn't play singles a few days after his Wimbledon triumph in 2011 - faces the tricky surface switch following his Australian Open success. They should still win but don't write off an upset.
It certainly wouldn't be a surprise to see second favourites Spain fall at the first hurdle. Their top three - Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro all miss the trip to Canada - and I'd expect Milos Raonic to lead the hosts to victory on a slick indoor hardcourt.
A Roger Federer-less Switzerland are strangely third favourites ahead of hosting the Czechs. While it's true Federer could play later in the tournament, that seems unlikely, and as well as Staislas Wawrinka played at the Australian Open, he'll do well to hold off Tomas Berdych and co.
The Argentines are the other top-four team in the market but they've lost Juan Martin Del Potro, who has opted not to play this year and without him they are considerably weaker. Germany and Philipp Kohlschreiber could well cause them problems this weekend in Buenos Aires, while a possible quarter-final clash with France looks difficult indeed.
It is the French I turn to for a likely winner.
As always, they have strength in depth so even if they have an injury to one of their stars they should be able to cope against most sides in the competition.
The first-round line-up of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra is a strong one and they should certainly ease past Israel. Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon and Jeremy Chardy wait in the wings.
The draw for the rest of tournament also favours them as they are guaranteed a home tie against five of their six possible opponents before the final and that's a significant advantage.
The one possible away tie is, as already explained, against Argentina but even on the clay of Buenos Aires you would have to give France a good chance with their line-up against what Argentina currently have to offer.
Basically, 9/1 about France going all the way looks good and it's also a price which is big enough for them to be backed each-way.
While France are fancied in the bottom half of the draw, I'm also going to pick two outsiders in the top half.
The US now rely on John Isner and Sam Querrey in singles - no bad thing, especially in home ties where fast serves can be aided by slick courts. The Bryan twins are a formidable doubles partnership, one almost guaranteed to put a point on the board in any tie.
Jim Courier's side should beat Brazil in round one and if that happens they are guaranteed a home tie in the last eight. It could be against Serbia but as suggested that's not certain and in any case they'd stand a chance.
16/1 is too big about the USA.
As for Canada, I've already pointed out I feel they'll be able to get past a weakened Spain side.
Raonic will likely be a top-10 player soon, while youngster Vasek Pospisil, big-serving Frank Dancevic and experienced doubles specialist Daniel Nestor are more than capable of aiding the star player.
They are another side already guaranteed a home quarter-final - and Croatia and Italy are hardly opponents to increase the heart rate significantly.
The 80/1 chalked up about the Canadians is simply too big, especially from a back-to-lay perspective. It looks worth a small punt.
- Davis Cup ties are being televised live in the UK by British Eurosport this season.