The Davis Cup by Rakuten Final 8 is less than three weeks away. Alongside exciting match-ups between some of the top names in singles are delicious-looking encounters between the world’s best doubles pairs.
Tuesday 22 November: Australia v Netherlands
Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt has a potent weapon in the form of Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell. The pair have had success on the Grand Slam stage this season, making the final at their home slam and then prevailing in a thrilling five-set encounter on the grass at Wimbledon against Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic that lasted more than four hours and went down to the fifth-set tie-break.
But they won’t be able to relax in the face of Dutch pair Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop. Koolhof, who will be world doubles No.1 on Monday, and Middelkoop , No.25 in the world, have had success this season. Koolhof has taken six titles and reached the final of the US Open with regular partner Neal Skupski, and Middelkoop has lifted trophies this year with Rohan Bopanna in Tel Aviv and in Rotterdam with compatriot Robin Haase.
Wednesday 23 November: Croatia v Spain
Croatia’s doubles world No.7 Mate Pavic and No.8 Nikola Mektic have 14 honours in their joint trophy cabinet, including an Olympic gold medal from Tokyo as well as titles from Wimbledon and the US Open. Pavic played in Croatia’s 2018 Davis Cup-winning final alongside Ivan Dodig, suffering a rare loss to France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Pavic and Mektic have had success on all surfaces this season, most recently on hard court against France’s Fabrice Martin and Adrian Mannarino to take the title in Astana.
They’ll likely be up against Spain’s Marcel Granollers and Pablo Carreno, with doubles specialist Granollers a winner at Halle this year to take his ATP title tally to an impressive 24. To add to the threat to the Croatians, Carreno is one of those players perfectly at home on both singles and doubles courts, having reached a career high of world No.10 in singles and world No.16 in doubles. The Croatians won’t have it easy.
Thursday 24 November: Italy v United States
Italy’s Fabio Fognini has become one of the fan favourites of the Davis Cup, partly due to his engaging style, but also to his longevity: the Sanremo born player has appeared in every Davis Cup since 2008. But that’s not to dismiss his considerable talent, the 34-year-old won the Australian Open title in 2015 partnering former world doubles No.8 Simone Bolelli, and this year the pair have taken the honours in Umag and Rio.
USA captain Mardy Fish still has one player to announce, and it remains to be seen whether world No.1 Rajeev Ram will join the squad and partner former world No.2 Jack Sock, who has already been confirmed. At the Group Stage in Glasgow, Ram and Sock paired up to great success, winning the deciding matches against Great Britain’s Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury as well as against Netherlands’ Koolhof and Middelkoop.
Thursday 24 November: Germany v Canada
If pushed to identify a quarter-final tie that promises fireworks, this would probably be it. Germany’s Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz are now undefeated in the Davis cup in eight matches and in each of their Group Stage matches, the pair went in at 1-1 in the singles, carrying Germany’s fortunes on their shoulders. Away from the competition, Krawietz took the 2020 Roland-Garros title with compatriot Andreas Mies, and Puetz won in Dubai this year alongside Michael Venus. Together, Krawietz and Puetz are a formidable threat.
Canadian captain Frank Dancevic will have his top two players with him in Malaga – world No.8 Felix Auger-Aliassime and world No.16 Denis Shapovalov. But he also has the experienced former doubles world No.4 Vasek Pospisil, who combined so effectively with Auger-Aliassime in the Group Stage in Valencia to see off the threat from Spain’s Granollers and Pedro Martinez. In 2019, Pospisil and Shapovalov double-handedly took Canada through to the first new-format Davis Cup by Rakuten final. Whichever combination Dancevic chooses it could prove costly for the Germans.