Davis Cup Preview: Switzerland faces Sweden without Roger Federer

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Davis Cup Preview: Switzerland faces Sweden without Roger Federer

Switzerland will aim to seal the maiden win in seven meetings against Sweden when they meet in the World Group play-offs in Biel. In the first clash since Sweden won 4-1 on home soil in Lulea back in 1997, Switzerland will bid to secure their World Group status for an eighth straight year, while Sweden is seeking a return to the top tier of the competition for the first time since 2012.

Both teams should have a berth guaranteed in the qualifying ties for the 2019 Davis Cup Finals that will feature the nations that lost in the World Group quarter-finals, the winners of these eight playoffs, the six highest-ranked nations in the Euro/Africa zone and the three highest-ranked nations in the Asia and Americas zone (from 2020, only teams ranked from 5th to 16th and the zonal group winners will qualify).

The host confirmed the Swiss Tennis Arena in Biel as the venue, the same they chose for the last home tie, the playoffs they won against Belarus last September. That was the first time Biel has hosted a Davis Cup tie, though a tie was held in Scheuren – in the Biel district – back in 1977.

The Swiss Tennis Arena is located on the aptly named Roger-Federer-Allee but this will remain the only sign of the Swiss No.1, and leading all-time Davis Cup player in terms of total wins, in a tie featuring more than a possible debutant and no Top 100 players.

Switzerland, playing its 168th tie, aims for the 80th win in the competition since its debut in 1925. The 14th to lift the trophy after defeating France 3-1 in the 2014 final in Lille, has won the last five home ties since losing to Czech Republic in the 2013 World Group first-round match.

Henri Laaksonen, the Swiss top singles player available, is contesting his 10th Davis Cup tie this weekend. He has a 7-6 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles rubbers, and 3 of his 5 victories in live singles rubbers have come in 5-sets.

He has an 8-7 win-loss record in the competition overall. Marc-Andrea Huesler, the second highest-ranked singles player in the home team, made his Davis Cup debut last February in the first-round loss that maintained Kazakhstan's impressive form at Astana's National Tennis Centre, having won 10 of their 11 ties there since 2008.

Huesler played alongside Luca Margaroli in the doubles rubber won by Timur Khabibulin and Aleksandr Nedovyesov that completed the job and gave Switzerland its only point in the dead singles rubber against Roman Khassanov.

The Swiss team will also feature Antoine Bellier, bidding to win his 2nd Davis Cup rubber this weekend. His only win in the competition came in the decisive 5th rubber of Switzerland’s 2016 World Group play-off victory against Uzbekistan, when he defeated Jurabek Karimov in 4 sets.

Luca Margaroli will contest his third Davis Cup tie this weekend, having made his debut in Switzerland’s World Group play-off victory against Belarus last year. Jakob Paul, finally, will make his debut. Sweden, in its first appearance in the World Group play-offs since 2012, will aim for its 155th victory in 236 ties in the Davis Cup since its debut in 1925.

The Swedes progressed to the playoffs after defeating Portugal 3-2 in the Europe/Africa Zone Group I second round in Stockholm. Brother Elias and Mikael Ymer, who recorded singles wins, won't travel to Switzerland. Sweden, who holds the record for the most number of comebacks from 0-2 down (6), lies fifth on the all-time list of champions, having won the title on seven occasions between 1975 and 1998.

But those glory days were lost in the wink of a young girl's eye. Captain Johan Hedsberg named three debutants: world No.873 Filip Bergevi, bidding for his first overall win since the ITF quarterfinals in Kamen last June, No.1094 Jonathan Mridha, quarterfinalist last week in the Italy F26 ITF tournament, and No.1235 Andre Goransson.

7 Only two players have some Davis Cup experience in the Swedish team. Robert Lindstedt, unranked in singles, hasn't played a live singles rubber since his defeat to Dudi Sela in Israel in the 2016 Euro/Africa Group I semifinal and has not won a singles rubber.

But in his 18 previous nominations, he extended to 13-4 his doubles record in the competition. No.455 Markus Eriksson is the highest-ranked singles player in the team, holding a 5-8 record (he's 7-9 overall) in ten nominations since 2012.