We’re down to the semifinal of the 2017 Davis Cup. On one side of the draw, Belgium squares off with Australia, having defeated Italy and Germany in the earlier rounds. Australia’s fielding a fiendish lineup for the tie, headlined by Nick Kyrgios but also featuring Australian Open doubles champion John Peers and promising youngster Thanasi Kokkinakis. On the other side, France faces off against a Serbian squad that is without Novak Djokovic and can’t replace him with another top singles player.
BELGIUM VS AUSTRALIA
Belgium needs to make something happen on the singles side to keep this tie competitive. Nick Kyrgios is 3-0 against Belgian #1 David Goffin, and hasn’t dropped a set to Goffin in either of their two matches this year. The doubles match is something of a foregone conclusion, with John Peers and either Jordan Thompson or Thanasi Kokkinakis clearly outclassing Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore. Kokkinakis is on a serious run of good form in 2017, beating Milos Raonic in the first round at Queen’s and making the final at Los Cabos (as a wildcard) by defeating Frances Tiafoe and Tomas Berdych. He could be a threat to upset David Goffin in the reverse singles rubber, at which point Belgium would require a miracle to survive the tie. For Belgium, winning the tie will require either an upset in the singles matches or a real upset in the doubles.
- Odds Australia wins the tie: 7/13
- Odds Australia wins the doubles match: 1/3
- Odds Thanasi Kokkinakis wins a singles match: 9/11
FRANCE VS SERBIA
France is currently favored to win the tournament, and it’s at least somewhat because of this tie against Serbia. After losing Novak Djokovic, Serbia has no elite singles talents to compete with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Lucas Pouille, and even Pierre-Hugues Herbert is higher ranked in singles than anyone on the Serbian squad. For the most part, Serbia has done a good job of fielding a team of young players, although I would have liked to see Nikola Milojevic get some Davis Cup experience. Apparently feuding with your national tennis authority over plane tickets will get you left at home.
France has an undeniable advantage in singles, and a decided advantage in doubles. Serbian veteran Nenad Zimonjic anchors the doubles squad, but Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert are both top-ten doubles players and deservedly so.
- Odds France wins the tie: 1/3
- Odds for a 3-0 sweep: 1/1
The most likely tie for the final is France and Australia. The tie would favor France. Australia would need a (totally plausible) upset from Kyrgios in the top flight singles plus one from either the doubles or the reverse singles from Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis is capable of beating top opponents, but it’s hard to rely on. The doubles match would be similarly difficult: Peers is the top-ranked doubles player but Mahut and Herbert have been playing together on tour for a while now. With some inspired play from Kyrgios, and continued improvement from a resurgent Kokkinakis, this tie could easily go to Australia. If Tsonga and Pouille can hold it together, however, it goes to France.
Bringing either Serbia or Belgium into the final makes the tie something of a walkover. France’s doubles team outclasses Belgium by a distance, and while David Goffin can absolutely beat Tsonga and Pouille, it won’t be enough if Steve Darcis doesn’t have some special kind of a breakthrough. Kokkinakis wouldn’t be far off the best singles player on the Serbian squad, and despite Nenad Zimonjic’s irreplaceable experience, it’s hard to imagine the doubles going Serbia’s way against Australia.
A Belgium/Serbia tie is improbable, but would favor Belgium. David Goffin is good for two wins against this singles lineup and Steve Darcis might be good for one more. It’s a very unlikely final, though.
- Odds for a Australia/France final: 7/13
- Odds for a Belgium/Serbia final: 15/1