NEW YORK – The U.S. Open is only a fortnight, but Davis Cup is on a never-ending loop, which is part of the challenge in trying to make it relevant and get the tennis world to focus on it.
As soon as some of the world's top players wrap up their run in New York, they have to quickly turn around and prepare to represent their country whether it's in a World Group semi-final, or in a playoff tie to ensure they're in the World Group for 2015.
The U.S. will meet Slovakia at the Sears Center Arena in Chicago. The conditions will be rather different than the ones they've encounted this week in New York. They will play indoors.
The Americans are in this position because they were beaten by Andy Murray and Great Britain, back in February at Petco Park in San Diego. So they must win this relegation tie to remain among the top 16 tennis nations in the world.
John Isner and Sam Querrey will be the singles players for the Americans. Neither had a U.S. Open to write home about. Then again, few Americans did. The Bryan brothers, as usual, make up the other half of the four-man squad and are a virtual lock to take the doubles point.
The interesting thing about this selection is that while Isner is the top-ranked American, Querrey is a long way from being No. 2. Ahead of him are Donald Young, Steve Johnson and Jack Sock.
Querrey has been part of the Davis Cup squad on and off since 2008. He lost both his singles matches against Great Britain, against James Ward and Murray.
Young made his Davis Cup debut in that tie last February, losing in three quick sets against Murray. Johnson has never played.
The Slovak squad's most famous member is probably its captain, Miloslav Mecir, who was a great player back in the 1990s before back problems got him. His team will be Martin Klizan, Lukas Lacko, Norbert Gombos and doubles player Michal Mertinak. It's fairly thin soup beyond Klizan, who is a very talented lefty who took Tomas Berdych to five sets in the second round at the U.S. Open last week. Lacko also is talented, but incredibly inconsistent.
On the World Group side, it's the semi-finals. And Team Switerland, which has both Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka competing this year in a serious push to win the whole thing, will play Italy and will be heavily favored.
Italy's squad will include Fabio Fognini, Andreas Seppi, Paolo Lorenzi and Simone Bolelli. All are good players, with Fognini the most talented and most accomplished of the lot. But Fognini has been surly, and disinterested, and generally kind of offensive on court the last few months for reasons known only to himself.
That tie will take place in Geneva on an indoor hard court that will likely be as fast as Federer can command it to be.
The other World Group semi-final features the Czech Republic against France, with the French having home-field advantage and choosing the fabled venue at Roland Garros, outdoors on clay.
The singles choices for the French are always difficult – it must be a nice problem to have. The squad as announced Tuesday is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau, who can double as the best doubles player of the group.
Michael Llodra, a stalwart in doubles for many years, had to retire from his singles and pull out of the doubles at the U.S. Open last week after a third injection into his ailing elbow didn't do the trick. Monfils's stature as a potential No. 2 player certainly has risen with his sterling play in New York, where he reached the quarter-finals with a straight-sets win over No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria Tuesday. Gilles Simon is the alternate; he, too, remains in the tournament as he plays his fourth round against Marin Cilic Tuesday. Gasquet was eliminated by Monfils.
The Czech Republic has won the Davis Cup the last two years. There were questions about whether the team's core – Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek have basically been a one-man wrecking crew in both singles and doubles – would return for the three-peat. But they're back.
Berdych skipped the quarter-final round against Japan in April; the Czechs went with a three-man squad but still sweeping the Japanese 5-0. He's back for the semifinal, along with partner-in-Davis-Cup crime Stepanek and supporting cast Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely.
Here are the announced lineups for the other World Group playoff ties. Notable in their absence for Spain are Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, who won't make the trip all the way down to Sao Paulo to play on indoor clay. Novak Djokovic will represent Serbia; Victor Troicki, who served a year's suspension for a doping violation and is on the comeback trail, is not on the squad.
India vs. Serbia (Bangalore)
India: Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni, Rohan Bopanna
Serbia: Novak Djokovic, Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic, Nenad Zimonjic
Brazil vs. Spain (Sao Paulo)
Brazil: Thomaz Bellucci, Rogerio Dutra Silva, Bruno Soares, Marcelo Melo
Spain: Roberto Bautista Agut. Marcel Granollers. Marc Lopez, David Marrero
Israel vs. Argentina (played on neutral ground in Sunrise, Fla.)
Israel: Dudi Sela. Amir Weintraub. Jonathan Erlich, Andy Ram
Argentina: Leonardo Mayer, Carlos Berlocq, Juan Monaco, Horacio Zeballos
Canada vs. Colombia (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Canada: Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, Frank Dancevic, Daniel Nestor
Colombia: Santiago Giraldo, Alejandro Falla, Juan-Sebastian Cabal, Robert Farah
Australia vs. Uzbekistan (Perth, AUS)
Australia: Lleyton Hewitt, Nick Kyrgios, Samuel Groth. Chris Guccione
Uzbekistan: Denis Istomin, Farrukh Dustov, Temur Ismailov, Sanjar Fayziev
Netherlands vs. Croatia (Amsterdam)
Netherlands: Robin Haase, Igor Sijsling, Thiemo de Bakker, Jean-Julien Rojer
Croatia: Marin Cilic. Borna Coric. Franko Skugor, Marin Draganja
Ukraine vs. Belgium (played on neutral ground in Tallinn, Estonia)
Ukraine: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Illya Marchenko, Denys Molchanov, Sergei Bubka
Belgium: David Goffin, Ruben Bemelmans, Steve Darcis, Olivier Rochus