The Davis Cup is the top international team event in men’s tennis. The brainchild of Dwight Davis and three of his Harvard University colleagues, the Davis Cup began in 1899 as a match between the United States of America and Great Britain. In 1905, the Davis Cup expanded to include four more teams – Australasia, Austria, Belgium and France. By the 1920s, more than 20 sides were playing in the event.
Until the early 1970s, only Australia/Australasia, France, Great Britain and the United States of America had won the Davis Cup. Now 13 teams have taken out the prize, with the Czech Republic beating Spain in the 2012 Davis Cup final.
In 2013, 130 countries have entered the Davis Cup, making it the world’s largest annual international team competition. The Davis Cup is structured with a 16-nation World Group, contested over four weekends during the year. The other countries are divided into three regional Zones, with promotion to and relegation from the World Group.
Unlike most sports tournaments, Davis Cup history plays an important role in future editions. The event has what is known as the choice of ground rule, which means that it is impossible for teams to enjoy home advantage against the same opponent in back-to-back ties. For example, the Czech Republic will begin its Davis Cup defence in Switzerland because the Czechs were paired with the Swiss and Prague staged the most recent meeting of the nations in 2007.
Once the initial Davis Cup draw is made, the choice of ground rule and the results of the ties determine the venues. It is one of the competition’s quirks.
Bookmakers have installed Serbia as the hot 2013 Davis Cup favourite in the expectation that any side featuring Novak Djokovic will take a lot of beating. Djokovic is the world number one in men’s singles and playing for the Serbians is as important to him as participating in Grand Slam events.
The Djokovic factor explains why Serbia is around the 2-1 mark to win the 2013 Davis Cup. But the Serbians did not get past the 2012 Davis Cup World Group quarter-finals without Djokovic so, if he hits a rough patch of form or misses a tie for whatever reason, they will be very vulnerable.
Serbia’s most likely route to the 2013 Davis Cup final is via Belgium away, the United States of America away and Spain at home, while the Serbians would probably visit Argentina or host the Czech Republic if it made the title decider. There is better value than 2-1 Serbia available.
It is not Switzerland, however. The Swiss have not won the Davis Cup – they made the 1992 final but lost 3-1 to the United States of America – and their progress depends on Roger Federer’s commitment. Bookmakers are being overly cautious with 2013 Davis Cup odds of as low as 4-1 about Switzerland breaking its duck, particularly as the Fed Express has ruled out playing against the Czechs.
Federer enjoys playing Davis Cup tennis and he helped the Swiss team get back into the World Group. But the four majors are what motivate the 17-time Grand Slam men’s singles champion and he will not leave his schedule open just so that he can play for Switzerland when required.
Without Federer, even with home advantage one would think that the Swiss will struggle to beat the Czech Republic so they are easy to swerve at best title odds of around 6-1.
One can spend forever and a day going through the 2013 Davis Cup draw. The only way to make sense of it from a betting perspective is to make a few assumptions, starting with picking the winners of the World Group first round ties based on the likely line-ups and odds, and then try to figure out how the business end of the event will look.
In the top half of the 2013 Davis Cup World Group draw, the likely quarter-final ties are Croatia versus Spain and the United States of America against Serbia. The Spaniards and the Serbians would probably win those clashes, which would result in Serbia hosting Spain in the semi-finals.
In the bottom half of the 2013 Davis Cup World Group draw, the likely quarter-final ties are Argentina versus France and Austria against the Czech Republic. And a semi-final between the Czechs and the Argentines would take place in Europe after last year’s epic tie in South America.
If one accepts that Argentina, the Czech Republic, Serbia and Spain are the most likely 2013 Davis Cup finalists, the Argentines would host the Serbians and the Spaniards, the Serbians would host the Czechs and the Spaniards would host the Czechs. The defending champions would have to travel.
But the Czech Republic is the 2013 Davis Cup value at odds of around 11-1 because it looks easily the most likely side to emerge from the bottom half of the 2013 Davis Cup World Group draw. Backing the Czechs at 11-1 with a view to lay off down the track is the smartest ante-post play even though they would have to play Serbia or Spain away.
The 2013 Davis Cup gets under way on Friday 1 February, with the final scheduled to start on Friday 15 November.