For some of the world’s top men players, the Davis Cup is an inconvenience that has to be endured. A few will avoid the tournament if they possibly can unless it fits neatly into their schedule or preparations. Others regard it as an honour to represent their country. Novak Djokovic, for example, rarely misses one of Serbia‘s ties.
It’s the same in the women’s game as you often find the top-ranked players have something better to do when the Fed Cup comes around. Maria Sharapova, for example, won’t be lining up for Russia against Japan in the quarter-finals of the World Group next weekend but the Russians still look to have a very strong line-up this year and are fully deserving of their best 5/2 quote from Paddy Power to emerge as winners.
It’s inconceivable that they should lose to Japan in Moscow. The best Japanese player is Ayumi Morita and she is only ranked 60 in the world. That means she’s rated considerably lower than all four of the Russian team, two of which are in the world’s top 20 (Maria Kirilenko and Ekterina Makarova). The Russians were unlucky to come up against inspired Ana Ivanovic in last year’s Fed Cup semi-finals and went out in a close-fought encounter with Serbia. The Serbians will be a danger again at the 9/2 with Paddy Power and Ladbrokes but face no easy task in their quarter-final with Slovakia (25/1 with Ladbrokes). Promoted back to the World Group last year, Slovakia have won two of their previous three meetings with Serbia in the Fed Cup and Matek Liptak‘s team should enjoy the hardcourt surface in Nis.
Opinion is divided on Italy, who are rated 5/1 chances by Paddy Power but are only half those odds at Ladbrokes. Led by Sara Errani, they face the USA in the quarter-finals. The two teams have met 11 times since the inception of the Fed Cup in 1963 but it took the Italians until 2009 to get the better of the Americans. They won again in 2010, however, and were top seeds last year only to lose in the semi-finals to the Czech Republic. The USA might struggle again on clay in Rimini while the Czechs will be a danger to all again as they have home advantage in the quarter-finals against Australia. Petra Kvitova seems to love playing Fed Cup and has led her team to successive finals. They beat Serbia in the final last year and are top seeds this and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing a repeat at Ladbrokes’ 4/1 as they are only 9/4 with Paddy Power. The four losing quarter-finalists will play the winning World Group II winners to decide next year’s World Group line-up.