Davis Cup preview: Alcaraz leads the way for favourites Spain, Britain look to Murray

Davis Cup preview: Alcaraz leads the way for favourites Spain, Britain look to Murray
Davis Cup preview: Alcaraz leads the way for favourites Spain, Britain look to Murray
Davis Cup preview: Alcaraz leads the way for favourites Spain, Britain look to Murray
The group stage of the Davis Cup finals begins this week as a number of nations look to book their spot in the knockout stages in November. Just days after the US Open and a new world No.1 was crowned, Carlos Alcaraz revealed he would indeed be taking part in the tournament, which is a huge positive. Let’s take a look ahead at what to expect.

What is the Davis Cup?

The Davis Cup is a tennis competition in which several nations around the world compete to become champions. A tennis World Cup, in a way. It was founded in 1900 and was once seen as highly prestigious. However, in recent years it has undergone a lot of surgery, due to its popularity and importance decreasing. The number of top players that compete in the competition has significantly declined, due to the increasingly packed schedule of the ATP tour.

As a result footballer Gerard Pique (yep, you heard right) entered the picture, and with his Kosmos group, completely revamped the way the tournament was played. But more on that later.

You must be thinking, whose bright idea was it to kick off the finals just days after the US Open final then? It's a good question.

Team tournaments like the Laver Cup and ATP Cup have also been introduced of late, which perhaps has also helped to take some of the gloss off it.

The USA are the most successful team in Davis Cup history, winning it 32 times. Russia are the current holders after claiming their third title last year, beating Croatia 2-0. However, they will not be participating in it this year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Rafael Nadal has won the most Davis Cup titles as a player, winning it five times, most recently in 2019 in which he almost singlehandedly carried them through the final against Canada.

The Davis Cup group stage kicks off on September 13th and ends on the 18th, and is held in four cities: Bologna, Glasgow, Hamburg and Valencia. The knockout rounds are set to take place in Malaga.

What is the format?

In 2019, the format was altered, thanks to Pique's input. The 16 best teams in the world head to the Davis Cup finals, in which they're split into four groups of four. These teams are decided by qualifiers, where 12 ties are played and the winner of each, qualifies for the finals. The higher seeded teams are paired with those who are ranked lower down. Ties consist of four singles matches and one doubles match, with all of them best-of-three contests. The previous year's winner and runner-up get automatic qualification, alongside two wildcard entries.

In the finals, each team plays everyone in their group once, and these ties consist of two singles and one doubles match. Matches are now three-setters, but used to be five-setters, illustrating just how seriously the Davis Cup used to be taken. The top two teams in each group qualify for the quarter-finals.

Previously, the tournament simply used to be a knockout round competition which was spread out over a year. It also included the incredibly popular home or away ties, where a draw would decide who would get the advantage of playing in front of their fans. With this, it created a raucous football-like atmosphere, and also an underdog feel for the away side. But due to players being less available, the International Tennis Federation and Pique decided to squeeze it into three separate windows in a handful of locations.

The teams who fail to make it out of the qualifiers drop into World Group I and potentially even World Groups II, III and IV, depending on a relegation and promotion process.

Who is taking part?

The groups read like this:

Group A: Croatia, Italy, Argentina, Sweden

Group B: Spain, Canada, Serbia, South Korea

Group C: France, Germany, Belgium, Australia

Group D: USA, Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Netherlands


Cincinnati champion Borna Coric (Croatia), Diego Schwartzman (Argentina), Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini (Italy) are the star names that stand out in the first group.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada), Carlos Alcaraz and Roberto Bautista Agut (Spain) will be the main attractions in Group B.

Group C possess Alex de Minaur (Australia) and David Goffin (Belgium).

Great Britain have gone full strength in Group D with Andy Murray, Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie, while Taylor Fritz and Jack Sock (USA) should light up this competition.

Who are the favourites?

Well, if we are just looking at the favourites to escape their groups, then it shouldn't be too complicated. With Sinner and Berrettini, Italy should have little problem, while Croatia might slug it out with Argentina.

Spain and Serbia will definitely be the favourites in Group B, but the late inclusion of Auger-Aliassime for Canada has given them a real shot. The Canadians were actually beneficiaries of Russia being kicked out of the competition and took their spot, so they will be looking to make the most of their second chance.

Group C is tough, and really anyone could make it through. France are the top seeds but looking a lot weaker than usual, especially without Gael Monfils. Australia will miss Nick Kyrgios, while Alexander Zverev's absence for Germany through injury severely hampers them. Belgium will be an outside shot but Goffin has performed well for Belgium before.

In Group D, Great Britain and USA should have an easy time, even though the Americans are missing US Open semi-finalist, Frances Tiafoe.

The overall favourites of the competition is much more difficult to say, purely because we don't know who will be available later on this year. Will Nadal and Novak Djokovic play for Spain and Serbia respectively? Will Kyrgios return?

Spain are most probably the favourites, because even without Nadal, they should have Pablo Carreno Busta and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina back for the knockouts, making them a formidable force. Serbia and Australia will also be in the mix if they have their superstars back. Italy's powerhouse duo gives them a strong chance too.

Interestingly, lucky losers Canada should also be considered come November. The only reason they couldn't qualify for the finals in the first place was because their best players didn't take part. If Auger-Aliassime can guide them out of their group, Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil will likely return. This group of players won the ATP Cup at the beginning of the year, so they have the ability to go all the way.