Sports / Tennis

Injuries wreak havoc ahead of Davis Cup quarterfinals

By Agence France-Presse in Paris (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-04 07:16

Injuries and unavailability have played havoc with the Davis Cup quarterfinals starting on Friday, with two-time defending champion the Czech Republic opening against Japan.

The Czechs will be without star player and world No 5 Tomas Berdych, who opted out of playing to take a well-earned rest.

That leaves 40th-ranked Lukas Rosol as their lead singles player with backup support from veteran campaigner Radek Stepanek.

After Berdych withdrew, the Japanese were briefly installed as favorites to continue their giant-killing run, but that ended with the news their No 1 player, Kei Nishikori, was out with a groin strain, an injury that forced him to forfeit in the semifinals of the Miami Masters last weekend after defeating Roger Federer.

The Japanese, in the quarterfinals for the first time since the 16-nation world format was introduced in 1981, will look to Go Soeda to shoulder the burden of the lead singles role, with youngster Taro Daniel called up.

Coach Minoru Ueda tried to remain upbeat despite having his worst fears confirmed.

"Losing Kei has definitely hurt the team's chances but we have to keep believing we can win," he said.

"I believe Taro has the potential to be a top 100 player. The other players have to step up now."

Meanwhile, injuries have decimated the France-Germany tie, which will take place in the French city of Nancy.

Germany has been particularly badly hit with its top three - Tommy Haas, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer - all unavailable.

Of the remaining lineup of Tobias Kamke, Jan-Lennard Struff, Peter Gojowczyk and Andre Begemann, only Kamke has previous Davis Cup experience.

France has lost its top-ranked player, Richard Gasquet, to injury but the 2001 winner has impressive strength in depth and can count on world No 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Julian Benneteau on Nancy's indoor hard courts.

The French have won the past six meetings between the two nations, including all four in the World Group, and you have to go back to 1938 for the last time Germany won.

There are no such injury problems for Switzerland, which is the favorite to lift the cup for the first time as it is able to count on the talents of Federer and Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka at home to Kazakhstan.

The Swiss have only ever reached the Davis Cup final once - in 1992 when they lost to the United States 3-1 in Fort Worth - and Federer would love to add the team title to his honors list, which lacks only that and Olympic singles gold.

Wawrinka acknowledged Switzerland has its best chance in years to win a first Davis Cup title.

(China Daily 04/04/2014 page24)

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