The semi-finalists of the Davis Cup have now been decided and despite upsets being threatened in all but one of the last-eight ties they all failed to materialise to leave a star-studded semi-final line-up.
Switzerland (4/6) were the outright favourites before the action got underway last weekend but were forced into a 5th and deciding rubber in Geneva before wheeling out 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer to ease the tension with a routine win over an outclassed Andrey Golubev.
France (7/2) were next in the betting ahead of their clash with Germany and a similar script was followed with the home side drawing on their strength and depth when it mattered most.
With the away side taking a shock 2-0 lead after the opening day singles there was no room for error for Le Bleus and they duly delivered with a comprehensive doubles victory followed by a clean sweep on Sunday where five-time tour winner Gael Monfils came in for the final rubber to send the Nancy crowd into raptures.
Italy (10/1) were also forced into a final rubber showdown, however, they would have been delighted to still be alive as they looked on the verge of defeat after trailing Great Britain 2-1 going into Wimbledon champion Andy Murray’s match with Fabio Fognini.
The world number eight had brushed aside the world number 13 on their only previous meeting on clay but when history beckoned he wilted badly in front of a raucous Naples following and couldn’t muster a single set.
Whatever he said publicly, no-one would have wanted the Scot to seal the deal more than James Ward who was subsequently thrown to the lions against Andreas Seppi in the deciding rubber.
Ward plies the majority of his trade against those ranked around his ranking of 161 and his opponent – 127 places superior – was too strong in every area.
Murray will know he has to take responsibility. After winning what appeared to be the crucial double tie with Colin Fleming on Saturday it was unforgivable to produce such a limp performance despite the inspired opponent on the other side of the net.
The tie was a perfect example of why having two world class single players is almost essential to win the competition, something that all of the last-four can boast.
Defending champions Czech Republic (7/2) had none of the aforementioned drama as their tie against Japan was over as a contest after Saturday’s doubles.
After Kei Nishikori was ruled out with injury the winners of the last two years could even afford to rest world number five Tomas Berdych as they eased to the last-four in their bid to be the first team to register a hat-trick of victories in the event since the USA in 1972.
Switzerland now face Italy at home while France host the Czech Republic in a real coin-flip of a tie.
There is no reason for those who backed France as advised in a previous article to change their opinions now, however, with only two hurdles separating them from outright glory.
The fact they could bring in a world number 25 out of the blue for their crunch rubber shows the strength and depth at their disposal and although Switzerland are the only side who can boast two Grand Slam winners, an injury to either Federer or Stanislas Wawrinka before September would decimate their chances.
Italy have probably come as far as possible despite Fognini’s form as Andreas Seppi is unlikely to be able to overcome either Swiss singles player on the previous evidence of his attempts.
The Czech Republic will welcome back Berdych for the next tie and although they are joint second choice in the betting their big advantage lies in the doubles pairing of Berdych and Radek Stepanek.
They are the most natural and effective pairing left in the competition and a record of 15 victories from 16 matches together says it all.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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