Paris : Just five days after the conclusion of the Australian Open, tennis shifts its attention to the Davis Cup this weekend.
France are the defending champions and start their campaign at home to the Netherlands while the United States, the record 32-time champions, travel to Serbia.
The first-round ties takes place from Friday to Sunday:
The sport’s ‘big five’ are all missing from this week’s first round. Australian Open champion Roger Federer and injured compatriot Stan Wawrinka, key men in Switzerland’s 2014 title success, miss the trip to Kazakhstan.
Also nursing injuries are Novak Djokovic, who sits out Serbia’s home tie with the US while Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray miss the clash between Spain and Britain.
However, world number three Marin Cilic, the runner-up to Federer in Melbourne, leads Croatia’s challenge at home to Canada.
Cilic can equal Ivan Ljubicic’s record for most Davis Cup match-wins by a Croatian player if he wins three rubbers this weekend. He has a 33-16 win-loss record in doubles and singles.
Hungary face 2017 runners-up Belgium looking to reach the World Group quarter-finals for the first time and record their best Davis Cup result.
The Hungarians have won nine of their last 10 ties with successive promotions in 2014-15, rising from Europe/Africa Zone Group III to Group I by 2016, before winning promotion to the World Group last year.
Ben McLachlan was born in Queenstown, New Zealand but the 25-year-old switched his allegiance in 2017 due to his Japanese mother and is in the squad for the home tie against Italy.