The first edition of the Davis Cup Qualifiers will take place on Friday and Saturday in the first days of February and unlike the regular World Group first round that we had for more than 30 years, 24 teams will battle to earn the spot at the Davis Cup finals in November where 18 countries will play for the Davi Cup crown, the first in the renewed format.
In one of the ties, 2014 champion Switzerland will take upon Russia at the Swiss Tennis Arena in Biel on an indoor hard surface, hoping for a miracle against the two-time winner without their by far the best players Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.
The Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi has announced that both Roger and Stan don't plan to compete in the Davis Cup 2019 campaign, especially not just five days after the Australian Open. Stan is making his comeback after knee troubles and he will try to improve his ranking and get back where he belongs while Roger will choose his 2019 schedule wisely, as he does for years now, and there is no room for Davis Cup in those plans.
This puts the home team into all kind of troubles as they don't have other high-quality singles players, with Henri Laaksonen and Marc-Andrea Huesler standing as the only other two Swiss in the Top 400! These two had lead Switzerland in Biel against Sweden in September and the Swedes scored a 3-2 win to reach the qualifiers round as well, and it was Laaksonen who scored both singles triumphs for the hosts.
Now, he will have to do the same against the mighty Russian squad that hasn't been this strong in years after stellar seasons for both Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov who entered the Top 20. Together with Andrey Rublev, Russia has one of the youngest and most balanced teams in the world and they will certainly be the favourites against the Swiss if two of those three players decide to play under the national colours in February.
Both Karen and Daniil have won three ATP titles in 2018, including the first Masters 1000 crown for Khachanov in Paris that pushed him just outside the Top 10. The Russians made a poor start of 2018 Davis Cup season, losing to Austria at home, and they toppled Belarus to earn the place in the Davis Cup Qualifiers where they will have a big chance of reaching the finals against the weak Swiss squad.
Switzerland had beat the former USSR in 1987 and 1991 and Russia scored the first win in their last meeting in 2002 in Moscow, despite two singles wins from the young Roger Federer in straight sets over Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov.