The two top-ranked players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev are the main attractions of the Davis Cup, which is attempting to re-establish itself this week following the cancellation of the 2020 event.
The Davis Cup, which began in 1900 as a bilateral competition between the United Kingdom and the United States, has undergone numerous transformations, most recently in 2019 when it was reshaped to resemble a world championship.
This year’s event will feature 18 teams competing over 11 days in three cities, initially divided into six groups.
The group stages, which begin on Thursday, will be held in Madrid, Turin, and Innsbruck, where the increase in coronavirus cases and subsequent lockdown in Austria means that matches will be played in an empty arena for the second time.
The semi-finals and final on December 5 will all take place in Madrid, as a reward for the team that won the title two years ago.
Spain could call on Rafael Nadal at the time.
However, the 35-year-old is out of action this time, recovering from a foot injury that has limited him to a single tournament since losing to Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals.
The 20-time Major champion plans to return to the courts in Abu Dhabi next month.
If the holders are to advance from their group to the quarter-finals, they must defeat Medvedev’s Russian team on Sunday.
“It’s true that we had a significant advantage,” said Spaniard Sergi Bruguera.
“If you have Nadal on your team, you are automatic favorites because he is the best player in Davis Cup history.”
“But he’s not here, so we can’t even think about it.”
Spain still has three players from the 2019 winning team, including Pablo Carreno Busta, and one of the most exciting young players on the tour in 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz.
Russian hopes in Group A, which also includes Ecuador, are riding on an impressive all-around performance.
World number two Medvedev, whose season culminated with a three-set thrashing of Djokovic in the US Open final in September, is joined in the top 20 by two others — Andrey Rublev (5) and Aslan Karatsev (18) — as well as Olympic silver medallist Karen Khachanov (29). “There are a lot of strong teams in our group, including Serbia with Novak, Spain, Italy even without Matteo Berrettini, and the United States.” “But we believe in ourselves,” Khachanov said.
Serbia’s hopes of repeating its 2010 success will be heavily reliant on Djokovic.
However, the world number one appeared tired at the ATP Finals in Milan last week, where he lost in the semi-finals to Alexander Zverev.
The German has chosen not to compete in the Davis Cup, and he is joined on the sidelines by a slew of other big names, with ten of the world’s top fifteen players missing.
Berrettini (7) is still recovering from an abdominal injury that forced him to withdraw from the ATP Finals.
Dominic Thiem (15) will be absent for Austria as he continues to recover from an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season, while Canada will be without the injured Felix Auger-Aliassime (11) as well as Denis Shapovalov (14) who is resting.
Then there are those whose teams did not qualify: Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece), Casper Ruud (Norway), Hubert Hurkacz (Poland), and Diego Schwartzman (USA) (13, Argentina).
The 2021 Davis Cup begins on Thursday, with Canada facing Sweden in Group B in Madrid, France facing the Czech Republic in Group C in Innsbruck, and Croatia facing Australia in Group D in Turin.