A number of nations got set to do battle in the opening round of the 2015 Davis Cup.
In 2014, Switzerland—led by Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka—won its first Davis Cup title by defeating France in the final of the international team competition.
Starting the week after the Australian Open, the opening round of World Group play saw those two countries joined by 14 more: Teams with rich legacies in the event, as well as nations who battled for years to earn a berth in the World Group, faced off in the 104th edition of the tournament.
The First Round
Switzerland, without Federer or Wawrinka, hosted Belgium. Despite the absence of its top two stars, the tie was even at 2-2 before David Goffin clinched it for Belgium, sending Switzerland back to the playoff round.
Switzerland-Belgium wasn’t the only tie to go the distance: As Japan faced Canada in Vancouver, Kei Nishikori posted wins against Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil to account for the visitor’s two points, but Pospisil won the live fifth rubber to send Canada through. Home-court advantage helped Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan topped the more accomplished Italian Fabio Fognini. And in Argentina, Federico Delbonis beat the Brazilian Thomaz Belluci in the live fifth rubber. Delbonis’ countryman Leonardo Mayer eked out a 15-13 fifth set against Brazil’s Joao Souza in the reverse-singles opener to level the encounter.
Another 15-13 scoreline would play a huge role in an eventual outcome. The United States—led by John Isner, Donald Young and the Bryan brothers—were slight favorites in their on-the-road matchup against Andy Murray and Great Britain. The hero of the tie was James Ward, who upset Isner in five dramatic sets.
Great Britain defended its turf, as did Germany, who knocked out France, the 2014 runner-ups. Novak Djokovic and the Serbian team gave their supporters something to cheer about as they blanked Croatia 5-0.
Australia, one of the most accomplished countries in the competition’s history, beat the Czech Republic in Ostrava, settling the tie when Bernard Tomic picked up his second singles win of the weekend.
Switzerland’s opening-round loss was the ninth occasion since 1972 a defending champion lost its first tie the next year.
James Ward’s win over John Isner, after Andy Murray’s victory over Donald Young, marked the first time in 80 years that Great Britain had won back-to-back matches over the U.S.
Australia’s win was its first World Group triumph since 2006. Australia had captured the Davis Cup title 28 times, second only to the U.S.
Follow Van on Twitter: @Van_Sias