By Mike McIntyre
A mixed bag of events are around the corner this week. To kick off the month of March, the men are involved in the first round of Davis Cup competition. The women meanwhile are in Mexico for the Monterrey Open. Both tour's are inching closer to the combined event in Indian Wells that begins in two weeks.Davis Cup:
Here are the match-ups for the first round of the World Group starting March 5th.
Spain vs. Switzerland - Logrono, Spain;
No Nadal or Federer in this match-up unfortunately. Spain is the huge favorite as this will be played on clay and can rely on David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo.
France vs. Germany - Toulon, France;
Without veterans Tommy Haas and Nicolas Kiefer, Germany will be in tough on hard courts against a French team that includes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils.
Russia vs. India - Moscow, Russia;
Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny should own India in singles competition, but look for the Indian duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati to win the doubles match.
Sweden vs. Argentina - Stockholm, Sweden;
The indoor hard-court conditions should be ideal for Sweden's Robin Soderling who should win both of his singles matches. This will be a tough match-up for Argentina as David Nalbandian is once again on the injury list.
Croatia vs. Ecuador - Varazdin, Croatia;
Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic are going to make life very difficult for the Lapentti brothers on the hardcourts in Varazdin.
Serbia vs. United States - Belgrade, Serbia;
This should be a very interesting match-up, with Novak Djokovic leading the way for Serbia and the Bryan brothers countering for the United States. In the end it will come down to how Sam Querrey and John Isner can respond as the lead singles players for the U.S. on the red clay in Belgrade. Serbia has the definite edge considering the chosen surface.
Chile vs. Israel - Coquimbo, Chile;
On paper, the Chilean squad led by Fernando Gonzalez should be favored on clay against Israel, but in 2009 the Israeli's put on quite a show in Davis Cup play and made it all the way to the semi-finals. They cannot be counted out in this tie in Coquimbo. The doubles duo of Andy Ram and Jonathan Elrich are quite the force.
Belgium vs. Czech Republic - Bree, Belgium
Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek lead the way for the Czechs against veterans Olivier Rochus and Xavier Malisse. The Belgians will really have to rely on using the energy from the home-court advantage to have a hope against the higher-ranked Czech's.
A year ago, Marion Bartoli won the innaugaural Monterrey Open against Li Na 6-4, 6-3.
This year, Jelena Jankovic leads the tournament as the top seed and perhaps this event offers her the opportunity to get her game back on track. Struggling mightily for the past year, the Serbian has great talent but a mental game that is as fragile as they come.
Other names to keep an eye on in Monterrey include Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, Aleks Wozniak from Canada and Melanie Oudin of the United States. All of these players could benefit from a strong run and without many of the tour's top players in attendance should be able to get some momentum ahead of Indian Wells.
Jelena Dokic leads the qualifying tournament as the top seed and will be looking to post her first substantial result of 2010. While Dokic had a fantastic start to 2009 by making the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, she has failed to repeat that success this year and is 1-3 in tournament play.