Wawrinka to lead Federer-less Swiss against defending Davis Cup champions

No Roger Federer, no problem? Doubtful. Switzerland has Stanislas Wawrinka for its first-round Davis Cup tie against the Czech Republic, but the home team is a considerable underdog with the defending champs on the other side of the net.

Roger Federer’s Davis Cup participation is limited almost exclusively to saving Switzerland for relegation. Last year (after making a rare World Group appearance in a first-round loss to the United States), Federer won two singles rubbers against the Netherlands to put his country back in the field of 16 for 2013.

This time, the first round will commence without the 17-time Grand Slam champion. In Federer’s absence, Stanislas Wawrinka headlines a Swiss team that plays host to the Czech Republic, which won the title last fall. While the home team is missing Federer, the Czechs are without No. 2 singles player and key doubles component Radek Stepanek.

Switzerland’s full squad features Wawrinka, Marco Chiudinelli, Michael Lammer, and former Finn Henri Laaksonen. The Czech Republic is countering with Berdych, Lukas Rosol, Ivo Minar, and Jiri Vesely.

Chiudinelli, ranked No. 139 in the world, appears to be far and away the Swiss’ second best singles option. However, Laaksonen is getting the nod for the second singles rubber against Berdych on Friday. The thinking has to be that any Day 1 win over Berdych is unrealistic, therefore Switzerland wants to keep Chiudinelli fresh for what could be a crucial fifth rubber on Sunday. In doubles, the Swiss have nominated Chiudinelli and Wawrinka.

The Czech Republic used a two-man team of Berdych and Stepanek the entire way en route to their 2012 triumph. This time–at least for round one–it could be a duo of Berdych and Rosol. Minar and Vesely are currently nominated for doubles, but that will likely change. The only scenario in which it would remain the same is if Rosol upsets Wawrinka on Friday and the Czechs have a 2-0 advantage heading into doubles.

Berdych: I just hope you aren’t comparing me with Rosol.

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