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14 Mar, 2022 10:34

Serbia replaces banned Russia in tennis showpiece

The decision made by the International Tennis Federation expels the defending Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup champions
Serbia replaces banned Russia in tennis showpiece

Novak Djokovic's Serbia will replace Daniil Medvedev's reigning champion Russia team in the upcoming Davis Cup finals this year, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has confirmed.

After suspending the membership of the Russian and Belarusian federations yet allowing their athletes to compete individually, the body announced the news on its official website. 

The ITF confirmed the process for replacing the Russian and Belarusian teams during the men's 2022 Davis Cup set to be played in September, and the women's Billie Jean King Cup season equivalent spanning from April to November, where Russia would have been be the defending champions in each competition.

As part of its ruling, the ITF stated that 2021 Davis Cup champions Russia – who it referred to as the 'RTF' or the Russian Tennis Federation – had already automatically qualified for the 2022 finals of the competition.

But in response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine, however, the RTF will be replaced by 2021's highest ranking losing semi-finalist Serbia headed by Djokovic.

As Serbia will go into the 2022 finals on a wild card, the Davis Cup Finals Steering Committee will soon announce a replacement wild card country that will be selected from the 12 losing nations in the qualifiers played from March 4-5 this year.

Once chosen, that wild card outfit will then compete alongside Serbia, 2021 finalists Croatia, wild card entrant Great Britain, and the other 12 nations that prevailed from the 2022 qualifiers earlier this month. 

These are namely Argentina, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Korea Republic, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the USA, who will head to the 2022 Davis Cup Finals in September when the quarter-finals are scheduled across four cities with the semi-finals and final hosted in a fifth city in November which is still yet to be announced.

Due to compete in the World Group I Play-offs from March 4-5, Belarus did not take on Mexico who received a walkover win.

As for the Billie Jean King competition (formerly known as the Fed Cup), reigning champions Russia had qualified automatically for the finals but will now be replaced by 2021's highest-ranking losing semi-finalists Australia, who won't be required to compete in qualifiers booked for April 15-16 while possibly led by women's world number one Ashleigh Barty.

As a consequence, Australia's scheduled opponents next month, Slovakia, will receive a bye and advance directly to the 2022 finals. 

Elsewhere in the qualifiers, Belarus were set to meet Belgium, who will now also receive a bye. This means Belgium, Australia and Slovakia join 2021 runners-up Switzerland on the list of countries already booked for the finals along with a still yet-to-be announced host nation. 

The announcement comes amid initial fears from men's world number one Medvedev over a possible ban on individual Russian players too.

“We never know – some sports made this decision [to ban all Russian athletes], especially I would think the team sports,” he said ahead of the ongoing ATP Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells in California.

“Tennis is probably one of the most individual sports we have in the world. Everyone’s living in so many different places. There’s always a possibility [of a full ban], but I hope not,” he added.

Following his third round 6-3, 6-2 win over Czech player Tomas Machac to start his campaign in the tournament, Medvedev was in more positive spirits and said he was “just pleased to be here and playing the sport I love."

"The fans were very good to me in this game. This is the first time I have heard this and people clapped, so thanks a lot for the nice welcome,” he added.

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