The Davis Cup is sport’s largest annual international team competition, with 123 countries participating in 2012. Two proud tennis nations have made it through to the 16 to 18 November final and they are the Czech Republic and Spain.
The Czechs are likely to start the five-rubber Davis Cup final as the favourites because they have home advantage. That is because the last of their six Davis Cup matches versus the Spaniards took place in Spain and the event format stipulates that they get to play at home next.
Czech tennis officials have chosen the O2 Arena in Prague as the venue for this year’s 100th Davis Cup final, which means that the players will encounter an indoor hard court, a much faster surface than the one on which the Czech Republic and Spain contested the 2009 Davis Cup final in Barcelona.
Led by Rafael Nadal, the Spaniards won all five rubbers on the Catalan clay court to clinch what was then their fourth Davis Cup title. Now they have won five, while the Czechs are looking to add to their one and only triumph in 1980.
The United States of America is the most successful team in Davis Cup history, with the Americans having taken part in 61 finals, winning 32 of them. But they have won only one championship since 1995, with Spain being the winningmost side since the turn of the century by quite some margin.
Both the Czech Republic and Spain has nominated four players for the 2012 Davis Cup final and the make-up of the squads means that it looks relatively straightforward to identify the line-ups for each of the five all-important rubbers.
The Czechs have named Tomas Berdych, Ivo Minar, Lukas Rosol and Radek Stepanek and, if history and rankings are any guide, Berdych and Stepanek will play two singles rubbers apiece and team up for the doubles rubber on the middle day.
The Spaniards have named Nicolas Almagro, David Ferrer, Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez so, unless something very unusual happens, expect to see Almagro and Ferrer in singles action and a doubles pairing of Granollers and Lopez.
Therefore, it is possible to evaluate each of the probable rubbers and reach a conclusion as to which of the sides is worth backing in the tight championship betting market.
Of the four singles rubbers, Berdych versus Almagro is the easiest to pick. The Czech leads the Spaniard 8-3 overall, 4-1 on hard courts and 1-0 on indoor hard courts. Also, Berdych has won his last three matches against Almagro without dropping a set. That is 1-0 to the Czech Republic.
Almagro is ranked number 11 in the world, which put him 26 places above Stepanek, but he looks like the weak link in the away side. The Spaniard trails the Czech 1-2 overall, with the players tied at 1-1 on hard courts. However, the relatively quick Prague surface – the International Tennis Federation rates Novacrylic Ultracushion as medium fast – will suit Stepanek more than Almagro, with the home player loving the court. So make that 2-0 to the Czech Republic.
If Almagro loses both of his singles rubbers then Spain will need Ferrer to defeat Berdych and Ferrer in his one-on-one wars and the Granollers-Lopez team to take out the doubles rubber. Such an outcome is possible but the Czech Republic is just as likely to sweep the three rubbers itself.
Ferrer leads Berdych 5-3 overall and 2-1 on hard courts but they are tied at 1-1 on indoor hard courts and the Czech won their most recent indoor match, a round-robin clash during the ATP World Tour Finals in London 12 months ago.
Ferrer leads Stepanek 6-3 overall and 3-1 on hard courts but the Spaniard trails the Czech 0-1 on indoor hard courts. The faster the surface the better for Stepanek, who beat Ferrer the one and only time that they met on a grass court.
And while Granollers and Lopez won this year’s ATP World Tour Finals doubles decider, they have a relatively poor Davis Cup record. Also, Berdych and Stepanek are a much better partnership than the bare rankings suggest. That Berdych does not rank very highly is simply because he is focused on his singles career. If Berdych specialised in doubles, he would be a top-10 player without any doubt.
Bookmakers are having trouble splitting the Czech Republic and Spain going into the 2012 Davis Cup final but there is an argument for the Czechs being fairly warm favourites.
The absence of Nadal from Spain’s team has taken some of the gloss off the historic 100th Davis Cup final and one of the consequences has been the slowness of bookmakers to issue betting offers, although one can expect them to do their thing in the 24 hours before the tie gets under way.
All serious sports punters should have accounts with every bookmaker under the sun for two reasons: to get one’s hands on start-up bonuses and to have access to the widest range of odds. It does not make sense to take anything less than the best price so get into the habit of shopping around. Start at our top five bookmakers and work from there.
Home advantage counts
Only once in the last six years has the away side won the Davis Cup final so home advantage counts, particularly when the host does its homework and installs a court that plays to its strengths and detracts from those of its opponent.
Bet against Almagro
On paper, the Spaniard has little chance of beating Berdych in Prague and Stepanek will rightly fancy his chances of extending his career advantage to 3-1 when they meet.
Back Czech sweep
One could make a decent case for the Czech Republic winning all five rubbers so, as well having a chunky bet on the home side winning the title, have a little one on a 5-0 romp.