Perhaps just as notable as the countries that will be represented in the final eight of this year’s Davis Cup are the ones who won’t be. France, Spain, and the U.S. all surprisingly fell by the wayside during the group stage, leaving a wide open competition the rest of the way.
While local fans in Malaga, Spain might be disappointing that they can’t cheer on their home country as hosts of the tournament finals, they will be treated to a fascinating mix of nations that features a blend of star power, scrappy underdogs and some emerging tennis powerhouses.
With the final eight officially set, let’s break down the quarterfinal match-ups set to take place in Malaga in late November:
Canada vs Finland
After taking an unprecedented and somewhat illegitimate path to the final last year, the defending champion Canadian side had to work to earn their place in the final eight this time around without the help of Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Fortunately, Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo, neither of whom are ranking inside the top-150, stepped up in their place to lead the country to a 3-0 group stage mark.
Their opponent in the quarters will be the surprising Finns, who upset Croatia and then stunned the U.S. on the backs of world No. 57 Emil Ruusuvuori and No. 126 Otto Virtanen. Against the Americans, Ruusuvuori knocked off Tommy Paul and Virtanen outlasted Mackenzie McDonald in a tight three-setter.
Australia vs Czechia
By finishing second in Group B, the reigning finalist Aussie side advanced but earned themselves a date with Czechia. Alex De Minaur helped Australia recover from a 2-1 loss to Great Britain and rally back with wins over France and Switzerland, keeping their dream of their first Davis Cup title since 2003 alive.
Meanwhile, Jiri Lehecka led the Czechs to an impressive unbeaten run through a tough Group C that featured Spain and Serbia, albeit without singles challenges from Novak Djokovic (played doubles) or Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal (didn’t play). With the Czech ladies already reaching major heights in 2023, now it could be the mens’ turn to shine.
Italy vs Netherlands
Italy shook off an opening loss to Canada, knocking off Sweden and Chile to advance to the final eight. The turn-around coincided with Matteo Arnaldi being substituted in for singles play ahead of Lorenzo Musetti. Arnaldi and Musetti offer Italy a promising young duo that kept Fabio Fognini off the team and could help the country end a Davis Cup drought that spans back to 1976.
Their final eight opponents will be a scrappy Netherlands team that remains in contention after outlasting the U.S. and Finland to finish first in Group D. The triumph over the Americans was particularly impressive, as Botic Van De Zandschlup toppled Paul and Tallon Griekspoor held on for a 6-3, 7-6(9), 7-6(2) win over Frances Tiafoe.
Serbia vs Great Britain
Tennis fans might be itching for one more Djokovic / Andy Murray showdown here, but Serbia and Great Britain have both advanced to this point thanks to the contributions of other representatives. Laszlo Djere helped his country’s cause with wins over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas and South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon and could serve a critical role as Serbia’s No. 2 singles player behind Djokovic.
Britain, meanwhile, leaned heavily on the efforts of Daniel Evans in the group stage. Evans knocked off Australia’s De Minaur and France’s Arthur Fils before helping secure a huge tie-clinching doubles victory against Switzerland (Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Stricker) alongside Neal Skupski.
Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports