Davis Cup Playoffs preview: Part 3 – September 18-19 – World Group I
THE first of the Davis Cup ties running into the team events for the second half of 2021 take place from tonight, with a host of teams battling it out to earn World Group Playoff and World Group I Playoff honours. The way it works is that the 24 teams (12 matches) in World Group 1 will result in the eight highest ranked winners heading to the Davis Cup World Group Qualifiers, with the other four winners contesting a further knockout clash in November, where the two winners will also advance to the World Group Qualifiers, whilst the two losers will join the other 12 losers in the World Group I Playoffs. The same format occurs with World Group II, with the winners advancing to the World Group I Playoffs, and losers back to World Group II Playoffs.
This is the third of four articles over the past two days, to break down the clashes in each group, and each date.
World Group I Playoffs:
Bolivia vs.  Belgium
A full strength Bolivian outfit will look to topple a Belgium side without its number one player in David Goffin. The injured Goffin will not take part in Belgium’s bid to get back to the World Group Qualifiers, with the fourth ranked nation a surprise drop from the main group. Bolivia is ranked 41st in the world, and even without Goffin will need to create something special to cause an upset. Hugo Dellien (144th ranked) is the top-ranked player, and with the 552nd ranked Federico Zeballos, it will be an uphill battle. Zizou Bergs and Ruben Bemelmans are both inside the Top 250 players, and with a doubles pairing of Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille who are experienced playing together, it is hard seeing Bolivia getting more than Dellien’s double.
Tip: Dellien might win both his singles, but Belgium should collect the rest, so a 3-2 win as a minimum, though could be 4-1 if Dellien slips up.
 Argentina vs. Belarus
With all due respect to Belarus, this is going to be a bloodbath. The second seeded Argentina should never be in this World Group I, with three singles players inside the Top 100 – including Top 20 Diego Schwartzman – and a Top 30 doubles pairing. Add in the fact that the Argentinians are playing at home on the clay, and the fact Belarus are missing their top six players – when they have Ilya Ivashka and Egor Gerasimov inside the Top 100 – and this could get ugly. Good luck to young talents Alexander Zgirovsky and Martin Borisiouk, but will have a baptism of fire in this game, though rarely have the chance to play against the quality of a Schwartzman.
Tip: Argentina 5-0 no questions asked.
Uruguay vs.  Netherlands
World number 20, Netherlands will be looking to bounce back straight into the World Group Qualifying with a win over the 32nd ranked Uruguay. The fourth seed will be led by new top ranked representative Botic Van de Zandschulp who will be hoping to follow on from his success at the US Open. He will team up with Tallon Griekspoor (133rd) up against the Uruguay pair of Pablo Cuevas (97th) and Martin Cuevas (515th). Whilst the older Cuevas might do enough to pick up two wins – particularly being on clay – the Dutch team as a whole is a lot stronger, with a Top 30 doubles pairing of Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop much stronger than anything the South American can put together.
Tip: Netherlands to win 4-1 with Cuevas likely to win at least one, though the Dutch will be too strong.
Lebanon vs.  Brazil
One of the tighter contests in terms of world rankings is between 26th ranked Brazil and 36th ranked Lebanon. The Middle East nation will host the contest on clay, which favours the Brazilians as much as themselves. With only one player ranked inside the Top 500 (Benjamin Hassan at 410th), it will unlikely go the way of the home team. Brazil will not put out their best line up, though Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves (194th) and Orlando Luz (278th) should have it covered. The doubles pairing of Rafael Motos and Marcelo Demolina are both inside the Top 100, and should easily take care of the unranked Lebanese pairing.
Tip: Brazil to win this in a 5-0 flush.
Romania vs.  Portugal
The final match of the World Group I in terms of seeding across the weekend is the 28th ranked Portugal coming up against the 42nd ranked Romania. Playing on the hard courts of Romania will help against the clay court leaning Portuguese outfit, in what could be a tight overall contest. The 10th seeds certainly have the better singles players, with Joao Sousa (150th ranked) and Frederico Ferreira Silva (184th) inside the Top 200. Romania’s specialist doubles player in Horia Tecau is 16th in the world however, and 250th ranked Marius Copil is a solid singles player. It might not be enough to overthrow Portugal, but should be a competitive contest.
Tip: Portugal to win 3-2, though could get up 4-1 if Copil drops both singles.
Picture credit: Philippe Montigny/FFT