USA get the vote to win the Davis Cup
USA get the vote to win the Davis Cup

Tennis betting tips: Preview and best bets for the Davis Cup


Andy Schooler previews the Davis Cup Finals, where a good draw and fast conditions could see the United States go all the way to the final.

Tennis betting tips: Davis Cup

1pt e.w. USA to win the Davis Cup at 9/1 (bet365 1/2 1,2)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook


Davis Cup Finals

  • Madrid, Spain; Innsbruck, Austria; Turin, Italy (indoor hard)

When the inaugural Davis Cup Finals were held in Madrid in 2019, it’s fair to say there were plenty of problems.

Set against a backdrop of fans angry at the change of format from the traditional home-and-away ties, ticket sales were unsurprisingly low (barring the hosts’ matches), while the schedule proved overloaded with one tie not finishing until gone 4am.

Organisers have reacted with changes.

This time around, three venues will host the Finals. Turin’s Pala Alpitour, which has just staged the ATP Finals, will be used, as will Innsbruck’s Olympia-Halle. Both will play host to group matches and a quarter-final.

Madrid will remain the main venue though, hosting the semis and final, although it is worth noting that the action is now at the Madrid Arena, not the Caja Magica which staged the 2019 event. The Madrid Arena is perhaps best known to tennis fans for hosting the Madrid Masters until 2008.

Sadly, ticket sales seem unlikely to improve. For a start, Covid-19 means the ties in Innsbruck will be played behind closed doors, while it will also undoubtedly put off some fans from attending in Madrid and Turin.

The timings have also been tweaked – the main start times are 9am (the earliest start time on the tour which could be a bit of shock to some players) and 3pm local. It was 11am and 6pm in 2019. Late-night finishes remain possible though – throw in that same scenario in terms of match length from 2019 and you are still looking at a 2am finish.

On the plus side, the 2019 event did produce some exciting tennis and the players certainly bought into it. Rafael Nadal pushed himself to the limit, while Roberto Bautista Agut battled on despite the death of his father mid-tournament, to help Spain win the trophy.

There was also the Serbs’ emotional press conference after their quarter-final defeat which showed what it meant to them.

This all-in-one-week (or rather 11 days) format was produced to encourage players to commit and they have largely done so again this year.

Very few fit players who could play this week have opted not to – ATP Finals winner Alex Zverev and Andy Murray are probably the two biggest names from that group not involved.

World number one Novak Djokovic is in attendance, as is US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, plus a host of other top-20 stars.

As far as conditions are concerned, what we do know is that it will be impossible to replicate across the three venues.

Madrid and Innsbruck are both at a significant altitude, Turin less so.

The balls will fly through the thinner air, something which should favour the big servers, although ball control is also key in such conditions.

US captain Mardy Fish has reported light balls which, he says, will suit his men.

As for the surface, GreenSet is being used, although it isn’t the same one used at last week’s ATP Finals in Turin. That quick blue surface used then has been replaced by a green one which Colombia captain Alejandro Falla has described as “slow and rough”.

In terms of format, the 18 teams have been split into six groups of three. The six group winners will progress to the quarter-finals, plus the two best runners-up.

Each tie will consist of two singles matches, followed by a doubles rubber. Each match is played across the best of three tie-break sets with the doubles having regular ad scoring.

The position of the doubles as the last rubber means it can sometimes be an irrelevance, although clearly it assumes decisive importance if the singles are split. For reference, only 12 of the 25 ties were still ‘live’ after the singles in 2019.

Let’s take a look at the groups and the teams involved…

GROUP A (Madrid)

Spain

  • Team: Pablo Carrero Busta, Carlos Alcaraz, Feliciano Lopez, Marcel Granollers, Albert Ramos-Vinolas
  • Best odds: 11/2

The holders will again have home advantage but this time around there’s no Rafael Nadal to lead from the front. Still, Spain have a strong line-up. Their singles men are both in the world’s top 32 and they include Next Gen ATP Finals winner Carlos Alcaraz whose star has shone incredibly brightly in 2021, while Marcel Granollers is a top-class doubles player. The problem is this is a tough group.

Russia

  • Team: Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Aslan Karatsev, Karen Khachanov, Evgeny Donskoy
  • Best odds: 9/4

With two of the world’s top five in their ranks, Russia look the cream of the crop. Medvedev and Rublev won this season’s ATP Cup with unbeaten singles performances and will be confident of a repeat. Even if there’s an injury problem, Russia have two other top-30 singles players to fall back on. Some will suggest doubles is a potential weakness. There is some truth in that but as already stated, it’s very possible they can win without needing a point in doubles and even if they do, Rublev and Khachanov are a decent pairing having won an ATP title this year and recently reached the Indian Wells final. The team to beat.

Ecuador

  • Team: Emilio Gomez, Roberto Quiroz, Diego Hidalgo, Gonzalo Escobar, Antonio Cayetano March
  • Best odds: 250/1

Frankly, Ecuador look group whipping boys. Their top-ranked singles player, Gomez, is at just 149 in the ATP list and the quality of opposition in this pool suggests they will struggle to win a rubber. There is at least a glimmer of hope in doubles – Escobar is a top-40 player in that format – but it’s hard not to conclude that their highlight of the 2021 campaign will end up being March’s Qualifier win in Japan.


GROUP B (Madrid)

Canada

  • Team: Vasek Pospisil, Brayden Schnur, Steven Diez, Peter Polansky
  • Best odds: 100/1

Canada were the surprise package of the 2019 event, making it all the way to the final, but it’s difficult to envisage a repeat. That’s primarily because they’ve lost the two men who played in that 2019 final – Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. Both cited the need to rest. That’s a massive blow, although they could still get out of this group if Pospisil plays how he did two years ago. He and Schnur will both like the extra speed the altitude provides in Madrid and in what is a weak pool, they are not without hope.

Kazakhstan

  • Team: Alexander Bublik, Mikhail Kukushkin, Dmitry Popko, Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Andrey Golubev
  • Best odds: 45/1

The Kazakhs have long punched above their weight in this competition, being quarter-final regulars over the past decade or so and almost beating Switzerland in the year they won the trophy (2014). Much of their success came in slick conditions on home soil – at least they may get one of those factors on their side in Madrid. The big-serving Bublik is tough to stop indoors but he’s been hampered by an injury of late which is rather worrying for his side’s hopes.

Sweden

  • Team: Mikael Ymer, Elias Ymer, Jonathan Mridha, Andre Goransson
  • Best odds: 100/1

Sweden have a glorious Davis Cup history – they won this trophy six times between 1984 and 1998 – but it’s hard to make a case for them in 2021. These days, Swedish tennis more or less is the Ymer brothers but at least Mikael is now a top-100 player. He made his first ATP final in Winston-Salem back in the summer. Both are capable of winning rubbers in this group but I don’t see them winning enough to make it into the knockout stages.


GROUP C (Innsbruck)

France

  • Team: Arthur Rinderknech, Hugo Gaston, Adrian Mannarino, Richard Gasquet, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Nicolas Mahut (one to drop out)
  • Best odds: 25/1

The phrase ‘strength in depth’ has often appeared next to France’s name over the years but that is arguably on the wane a little these days. With Gael Monfils, Ugo Humbert and Benoit Paire not in the team, France don’t have a top-50 singles player in their line-up. They do remain strong in the doubles department though with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut arriving fresh from victory in the ATP Finals. Still, it’s going to take one of the singles men to step up to the plate if they are to contend but at least Rinderknech, Mannarino and Gaston have enjoyed some decent results of late.

Great Britain

  • Team: Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans, Joe Salisbury, Neal Skupski, Liam Broady
  • Best odds: 10/1

Leon Smith’s team, Davis Cup winners in 2015, has a somewhat strange look to it this year with neither Murray brother included – Andy opted not to play while Jamie’s absence goes to highlight how strong Britain are in doubles at the moment. Salisbury is the world number three in that format, while Skupski is also in the top 20. In singles, Norrie – who has enjoyed a fantastic year which included winning the Indian Wells Masters – and Evans are both in the world’s top 25 so it’s still a very strong team. Evans’ form is probably the main concern but GB may be decent dark horses.

Czech Republic

  • Team: Jiri Vesely, Tomas Mahac, Zdenek Kolar, Jiri Lehecka
  • Best odds: 100/1

The Czechs are another side with the shadow of history hanging over them – they won this competition in 2012 and 2013. These days, Vesely is the only top-100 player in their team and he’s struggled this year. His last main-tour win came in July, although he did win a Challenger title indoors last month. Mahac, just 21, is an exciting talent coming through the ranks and it will be interesting to see how he performs against higher-ranked foes, although expecting him to win much this week is probably unrealistic.


GROUP D (Turin)

Croatia

  • Team: Marin Cilic, Borna Coric, Borna Gojo, Nikola Mektic, Mate Pavic
  • Best odds: 20/1

A case can be made for Croatia. First, they have the world’s best doubles players in Mektic and Pavic. As a pair, they’ve won nine titles this season, including Wimbledon and the Olympics. Cilic has also played himself into some decent form indoors, winning in St Petersburg and making the final in Moscow. However, those three may well have to do all the work for their side. Former world number 12 Coric is in the line-up but that’s something of a surprise given he’s not played since March due to shoulder surgery. Could get out of this group but unlikely to survive the sterner KO tests.

Australia

  • Team: Alex de Minaur, John Millman, Alexei Popyrin, John Peers, Alex Bolt
  • Best odds: 16/1

With Nick Kyrgios absent and De Minaur’s form having been awful in the second half of the season (he’s won just four of his last 15 matches), Australia’s hopes don’t look particularly great. That said, Millman has played pretty well indoors in Europe over the past couple of months and Popyrin is no mug. With Peers a strong doubles option, the Aussies could get out of this section but they seem highly unlikely to be lifting the trophy for the first time since 2003 when current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the victorious team.

Hungary

  • Team: Marton Fucsovics, Attila Balazs, Zsombor Piros, Fabian Marozsan, Mate Valkusz
  • Best odds: 80/1

Hungary look a bit too much like a one-man team with world number 40 Fucsovics carrying virtually all their hopes. He’s probably going to be required for doubles too, although he has little track record in that discipline. Balazs will likely be the team’s other singles pick and while he’s made an ATP final in the past, he plays his best tennis on clay. Even if Falla is right about the courts, these conditions will likely play too quick for him and it’s easy to see Hungary bowing out in the group stage.


GROUP E (Turin)

USA

  • Team: John Isner, Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe, Jack Sock, Rajeev Ram
  • Best odds: 10/1

The big servers Isner and Opelka should enjoy these indoor conditions – even if the court is a bit rough, that will only help push the ball up into the forehand hitting zone which both men like to utilise. Tiafoe, a late replacement for Taylor Fritz, has played well in recent months, so is a decent singles alternative, while Sock and Ram are both high-quality doubles players, as is Isner. Look to have a decent chance but a couple of things may work against them – there’s the potential for a late-night finish to their final group match before a quarter-final the next day, while they could have done without landing in the same group as Italy.

Italy

  • Team: Jannik Sinner, Lorenzo Sonego, Fabio Fognini, Lorenzo Musetti, Simone Bolelli
  • Best odds: 8/1

Italy will have home advantage before the semis but they suffered a major blow to their hopes last week when Matteo Berrettini was injured at the ATP Finals. A Berrettini-Sinner singles line-up would have been a formidable one but the Italians now look vulnerable in their second singles slot where Sonego, Musetti or the more experienced Fognini will have to fill in. Bolelli and Fognini have won a Grand Slam doubles title together – there’s a good chance this group boils down to their expected doubles clash with Sock and Isner.

Colombia

  • Team: Daniel Elahi Galan, Nicolas Mejia, Juan Sebastian Cabal, Robert Farah, Cristian Rodriguez
  • Best odds: 200/1

This group’s doubles excellence is highlighted again in this team by the presence of Cabal and Farah, who recently played at the ATP Finals. However, Colombia have just one player in the singles top 250 and Galan is much more at home on a claycourt. It’s hard to see Colombia avoiding bottom spot in this pool, although Cabal and Farah could well play a part in determining whether or not both USA and Italy progress to the knockout stages.


GROUP F (Innsbruck)

Serbia

  • Team: Novak Djokovic, Filip Krajinovic, Dusan Lajovic, Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic
  • Best odds: 5/1

World number one Djokovic went unbeaten in singles and doubles as he led Serbia to glory at the 2020 ATP Cup and a similar effort here could bring the same rewards. He’ll likely step up for doubles duty whenever there’s a live rubber and he’s more than capable of forming a winning partnership in that format. The other players on the team are all in the top 70 in singles but it is that lack of doubles options which may prove to be their downfall. In 2019, a final-set tie-break defeat in the decisive doubles saw the Serbs beaten in the last eight. They have little room for error but with Djokovic on board will always have a chance.

Novak Djokovic with the Paris Masters title
Novak Djokovic with the Paris Masters title

Germany

  • Team: Jan-Lennard Struff, Dominik Koepfer, Peter Gojowczyk, Kevin Krawietz, Tim Puetz
  • Best odds: 40/1

Alex Zverev has long been a critic of this Finals format and he’s again chosen not to play – he’s off to the Maldives instead. That’s a huge blow to the Germans' chances. Gojowczyk could cause an upset or two if it plays quick and they do possess a decent doubles partnership with Krawietz and Puetz former French Open champions and currently both in the world’s top 20. They are not without a chance of pipping Serbia in this group, although they will need everything to go right.

Austria

  • Team: Dennis Novak, Jurij Rodionov, Gerald Melzer, Oliver Marach, Philipp Oswald
  • Best odds: 100/1

At another time, this would have been an exciting week for Austria. As it is, it could be a long one for them. Star man Dominic Thiem is injured and even home advantage has been largely taken away from them given the new lockdown imposed in Austria which means fans won’t be in attendance. Without Thiem, there is no top-100 singles player. Marach and Oswald are strong, experienced doubles players but it’s hard to see either of Austria’s group ties still being live by the time they step onto court.


VERDICT

Before settling on selections, it’s important to note that the knockout draw bracket is already set as follows:

Winner of A v Runner-up 1 or 2
Winner of C v Winner of F

Winner of E v Winner of D
Runner-up 1 or 2 v Winner of B

It means that if favourites Russia and Djokovic’s Serbia both win their group, they will be on the same side of the draw, one which would also feature Great Britain if they top their pool.

Russia do look the team to beat but it’s been a long, hard season for Medvedev and Rublev and the latter has hardly been in scintillating form in recent months.

Given a decent Spain team is also in their pool, I can’t be backing them at 9/4, even though they look the most likely winners.

GB are tempting at 10/1 but the draw means they may well have to beat France, Serbia and Russia just to reach the final. With Evans not in the best of form, that look a big ask.

The bottom half of the draw looks where the better bets lie and the winner of the USA/Italy group should have a good shot at reaching the final.

I’m going to side with USA.

The 10/1 shots have strong options in both singles and doubles and look a well-rounded team.

Isner and Opelka should enjoy serving indoors in Turin and, hopefully, Madrid. Isner certainly has a strong record in Madrid on the regular tour, albeit outdoors on clay.

If the ball isn’t cutting through the court as fast as it did at the recent ATP Finals, that will be good news for Isner and Opelka, both of whom have enjoyed playing in Indian Wells where the ball flies fast through the air but comes up off the court.

Sock, Ram and Isner make for great doubles options too and the US should go into most rubbers in confident mood.

Captain Mardy Fish is certainly feeling good coming into the vent, saying; “I think we’re going to win. To be frank, I think we have a pretty badass team, a nasty team that not a lot of other countries want to see on a fast or medium speed court with light balls.”

He added he felt that Isner and Sock were “the best doubles team in the world” which may be stretching things but certainly isn’t too far off.

An each-way bet is the advice – some bookies are betting to half the odds for a place in the final, others a third, so watch your step there.

Posted at 2145 GMT on 23/11/21

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