Of all the team competitions in the world the Davis Cup remains one of the hardest to predict simply because it’s difficult to know who will actually be playing.
If the top-50 players in the world made themselves exclusively available to their country for the four-man event throughout the year – like the best do in every other sport – writing this article would be straightforward as the winner would almost certainly be Spain.
With world number one Rafael Nadal and world number five David Ferrer supported by top-35 players Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco and established doubles pairing Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez the five-time winners would be hard to stop.
However, a glance at their team selection to face Germany in the first round of the World Group shows exactly what those wanting to predict the outright winners of this event are up against.
Neither Nadal or Ferrer play, while although Lopez and Verdasco do they are now joined by world number 56 Roberto Bautista-Agut along with Granollers and debutant David Marrero.
And this is the problem for potential investors as although Spain have been installed as 3/1 favourites the reality is that they probably should be much longer.
The price hinges on what happens later on in the event but if anything they should be underdogs against a Germany side that boast arguably the better singles pairing in Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber.
To make it even more testing for punters, if Spain were to win and it was compatible with their schedules, Nadal and Ferrer could return in the quarter-finals or perhaps later in the competition if they were to advance.
However, that is no guarantee. Nadal and Ferrer have only played seven singles matches between them over the past two years with injuries, schedule and commitment all in question.
No-one investing at 3/1 should have to deal with so many doubts even if they were to win the coin-flip in their opener.
And so with the favourites discarded, focus should be given to last year’s finalists Czech Republic and Serbia, both priced as joint second-favourites at 9/2.
The final in Belgrade exposed an odd trait of the four-man competition as the Czechs proved that you only need two players at the top of their game to win while Serbia confirmed that you do need at least two.
Novak Djokovic was effectively left to try and win it for Serbia himself following the drugs-ban to Viktor Troicki and the late injury-withdrawal of Janko Tipsarevic.
This left a doubles pairing consisting of a 37-year-old and an unknown in the shape of Nenad Zimonjic and IIija Bozoljac – no match for Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek who had only lost one rubber together from their previous 13.
Berdych and Stepanek were fit enough and committed enough to play both singles and doubles throughout the tournament and the result was a second Davis Cup triumph in as many years.
Serbia are likely to have both Tipsarevic and Troicki available for the majority of the competition this time and although they are almost guaranteed two points every time courtesy of their world number two the absence of an established doubles pairing will likely hurt them again.
The Czech Republic must be respected in their bid for the competition’s first hat-trick since USA’s dominance from 1977-79 but the answer to this year’s event could be the only other team with two top-10 players in their ranks, France.
Only USA and Australia have won the event more times and in Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga they have two players who not only will win plenty of points but will also be committed. Backed up by world number 30 Gael Monfils and either three-time Grand Slam doubles winner Michael Llodra or Julien Benneteau in the doubles they have a team that will be competitive in every rubber and should be backed with confidence at 5/1.
The likes of Switzerland (5/1) and Argentina (11/1) require a mention but despite boasting Grand Slam winners Stanislas Wawrinka, Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro there are serious doubts over their regular participation and each team lacks strength in the all-important doubles.
The Czech Republic have shown in the last two years that if a team can put out two strong singles players who also happen to play doubles well together every tie they are difficult to beat, however, France potentially have that along with the ability to rest players and replace without losing strength.
Invest in France to solve this year’s puzzle.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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