Croatia were dealt a big blow ahead of their title defence, with former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic withdrawing from the tournament due to injury, while Russia also lost a key figure after Daniil Medvedev pulled out with fatigue after an extremely busy last half of the season, meaning they will have just three players competing in Madrid.
However, Russia are still equipped with a very strong team, led by Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev, while Borna Coric will be the main man for the defending champions as they look to launch the new-look Davis Cup Finals with a victory.
Coric and Khachanov didn’t have the best seasons in 2019 after putting together career-best years in 2018, but Rublev has been in superb form since recovering from various injury problems and is arguably the form player of the tie.
In saying that, Croatia certainly have the upper hand if the tie comes down to doubles, with No. 9 Ivan Dodig and No. 13 Nikola Mektic, along with Mate Pavic.
It’s also a big moment for 21-year-old and World No. 281 Borna Gojo, who will replace Cilic in singles and make his debut for Croatia.
Group F: Italy vs Canada – play begins on Stadium 2 at 4.00pm local time (3.00pm GMT)
Team Canada (PA Images)
Italy: Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Lorenzo Sonego, Andreas Seppi, Simone Bolelli
Canada: Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov, Brayden Schnur, Vasek Pospisil
This could potentially be one of the best ties of the group stage. Italy have one of the strongest overall teams in the competition, with two singles players inside the top 10, while Simone Bolelli is an excellent doubles player, while Canada have two of the brightest young stars in tennis and have a great doubles player in Vasek Pospisil.
Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime won the junior Davis Cup title at this very venue back in 2015 and have both put together impressive seasons in 2019, ending the year at No. 15 and No. 21 respectively.
Meanwhile, Italy have two singles players inside the top 12 with Matteo Berrettini at No. 8 and Fabio Fognini at No. 12. Berrettini is coming off a debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals in London and managed to beat eventual runner-up Dominic Thiem, while Fognini always steps up while representing his country and is more than capable in the doubles arena, partnering Bolelli to the 2015 Australian Open title with the duo becoming the first all-Italian pair to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era.
It promises to be an extremely close tie and could easily come down to a deciding doubles rubber.
Group D: Belgium vs Colombia – play begins on Stadium 3 at 4.00pm local time (3.00pm BST)
Belgium: David Goffin, Kimmer Coppejans, Steve Darcis, Joran Vliegen, Sander Gille
Colombia: Daniel Galan, Santiago Giraldo, Alejandro Gonzalez, Juan Sebastian Cabal, Robert Farah
Both of these nations are strong in different areas, with Belgium No. 1 David Goffin ranked almost 200 places higher than Colombian opposite number Daniel Galan, but the South Americans do boast one of the strongest doubles pairings in the competition in the form of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
It means the tie could come down to who wins the second singles rubber, which if captains go with seedings, would be Kimmer Coppejans up against Santiago Giraldo.
Davis Cup Finals Day 1 live streaming, preview and tips – Croatia launch title defence against Russia; Italy face Canada and Belgium meet Colombia
Day 1 of the revamped Davis Cup Finals sees defending champions Croatia take on Russia, with Italy vs Canada and…
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