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Djokovic Shifts Focus To Davis Cup Duty

World Group First Round

Djokovic© AFP/Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic trains in Charleroi ahead of Serbia's Davis Cup first round tie versus Belgium.

ATPWorldTour.com previews the eight Davis Cup World Group first round ties.

BELGIUM vs. SERBIA
Spiroudome de Charleroi, Charleroi, Belgium

Novak Djokovic has shifted his focus to helping Serbia win its tie against Belgium. The World No. 1 is making his first appearance in the competition since September 2011.

Djokovic picked up his fourth Australian Open title on Sunday and will now bid to improve his 19-7 singles record for 2010 champion Serbia, alongside countrymen Viktor Troicki, Nenad Zimonjic and Boris Pashanski. Serbia is attempting to reach the quarter-finals for the fourth consecutive year.

“It’s been a long few weeks in Melbourne and exhausting, but still very successful,” said Djokovic on Thursday. “Right now I am turning my attention to Davis Cup and I am glad I am part of this team again. I have missed that feeling to be honest and hopefully we can have a successful team.”

Belgium is making a return to the World Group after spending 2012 in the Europe/African Zone Group I. The nation has selected David Goffin, Steve Darcis, Ruben Bemelmans and Olivier Rochus for the tie and hopes to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2007.

Belgium or Serbia takes on the United States or Brazil in the quarter-finals.

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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs. BRAZIL
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, USA

World No. 16 John Isner spearheads the United States challenge in what marks the nation’s 279th tie (212-66 overall).

Jim Courier, team captain of the 32-time champion, has also selected Sam Querrey and the most successful doubles team of all-time, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, who clinched their 13th major title at Melbourne Park. If the twins win their doubles rubber on Saturday, they would break John van Ryn’s 22-2 doubles record for the United States.

Brazil will be trying to beat United States for the first time since 1966. Thomaz Bellucci, Thiago Alves, Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares will attempt to lead Brazil to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2001. The nation reached the 1992 and 2000 semi-finals.

SWITZERLAND vs. CZECH REPUBLIC
Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland

Stanislas Wawrinka, who lost to Novak Djokovic 12-10 in the fifth set of their Australian Open fourth round clash, leads 1992 runner-up Switzerland against defending champion Czech Republic. Team captain Severin Luthi has also selected Marco Chiudinelli, Michael Lammer and Henri Laaksonen.

World No. 6 Tomas Berdych, who has a 22-12 singles record in the competition, is joined by Lukas Rosol, Ivo Minar and Jiri Vesely. The Czech Republic is hoping to avoid the fate of eight defending champion nations, who have lost in the first round since 1972.

Remembering last year’s triumph, Berdych said, “It was an amazing moment. The atmosphere, the feelings,  everything.”

The 1980 and 2012 champion is also looking to win a record sixth straight tie, while Switzerland is bidding to reach the World Group quarter-finals for the first time since 2004. Switzerland has lost in the first round on their past six World Group appearances.

Wawrinka admits, “With Tomas [Berdych] leading their team it is going to be very difficult for us, but it is a good challenge and it is a great opportunity for us to show that we can do something in this competition.”

Switzerland or Czech Republic takes on Kazakhstan or Austria in the quarter-finals.

KAZAKHSTAN vs. AUSTRIA
National Tennis Centre, Astana, Kazakhstan

Mikhail Kukushkin and Andrey Golubev spearhead Kazakhstan's third consecutive World Group appearance in a first-time meeting against Austria, which was a semi-finalist in 1990.

Jurgen Melzer is playing for Austria for a record 15th year and, alongside Andreas Haider-Maurer, Alexander Peya and Julian Knowle, will attempt to help Austria reach the quarter-finals for the second straight year.

Melzer admitted, “I have always been struggling at the start of the season. But I managed to get to the Brisbane quarter-finals and Australian Open third round. I am happy with my game at the moment and most importantly, my fitness levels are back to a high level again.”

FRANCE vs. ISRAEL
Kindarena, Rouen, France

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, who are both in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, will look to extend France’s perfect 3-0 record against Israel. Nine-time champion France has only lost one first round tie (versus Czech Republic in 2009) in 11 years. Team captain Arnaud Clement has selected Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra for the doubles rubber.

To become a title-winning nation, Tsonga believes, “We have to all improve on the Tour and maybe one or two of us get closer to the Top 5, maybe then we’ll have a chance.”

Israel, the 2009 semi-finalist, has selected Dudi Sela and Amir Weintraub for singles rubbers in its attempt to win its fourth tie in 10 World Group appearances. Jonathan Erlich and Noam Okun will contest the doubles rubber.

France or Israel takes on Argentina or Germany in the quarter-finals.

ARGENTINA vs. GERMANY
Parque Roca, Buenos Aires, Argentina

In a repeat of last year’s first round tie, which Argentina won 4-1 in Bamberg, the host nation has selected World No. 12 Juan Monaco and Carlos Berlocq for singles rubbers. The duo will be pitted against Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer.

Four-time runner-up Argentina has not lost a first round tie for 11 years. Three-time titlist Germany last won the Davis Cup title in 1993.

David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos are scheduled to compete against Germans Christopher Kas and Kohlschreiber in the doubles rubber.

CANADA vs. SPAIN
Thunderbird Sports Centre, Vancouver, Canada

Canada looks to World No. 15 Milos Raonic to lead the host nation to its first World Group tie win. Last year’s finalist Spain has Marcel Granollers as its leading singles player. Two of the best doubles players in the world, Canadian Daniel Nestor and Marc Lopez of Spain, also compete in the tie.

Five-time champion Spain has reached four of the past five Davis Cup finals. It is their 17th straight year in the World Group. The last time the nation lost in the first round was in 2006 (l. to Belarus).

Canada or Spain takes on Croatia or Italy in the quarter-finals.

ITALY vs. CROATIA
Palavela, Turin, Italy

Italy, the 1976 champion, last went beyond the Davis Cup first round in 1998, when it finished runner-up. Croatia, the 2005 titlist, is contesting its fourth straight away tie. Croatia beat Italy in 2001 and 2008.

Andreas Seppi, at a career-high No. 18 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, will come up against Croatia’s Marin Cilic in Sunday’s first reverse singles rubber. Seppi admitted, “It's always very difficult against him. We've had some great fights. I won the last match against him in Australia in five sets so hopefully I can do it again in Torino.”

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