2018 Davis Cup Preview | Denmark v Ireland

Can a young Irish team upset their experienced counterparts in Birkerod?

Simon Carr serving before the 2018 Davis Cup tie between Ireland and Denmark
Simon Carr serving at the Birkerod sports centre ahead of Ireland's tie with Denmark | Danish Tennis Federation

By Stephen Higgins | 1 February 2018

After a month of tennis balls shooting through the suffocating heat of Australia, attention now moves to the international arena and cooler climes.

February begins with the Davis and Fed Cup tournaments and Ireland’s men travel to Denmark this week for their Group II Europe/Africa first round tie.

For the 2018 edition, the ITF have decided to trial significant changes in the Davis Cup format.

Group I and Group II contests will now be best-of-three sets and played over two days. Two singles and one doubles will be played on the first day with the remaining matches (if needed) on the following day. In another tweak, if the tie is 3-0 to one side after the first day, only the fourth match will be played on the second day.

These new rules will only apply to Group I and Group II this year but may be expanded to the World Group in future if popular.

Captains are also allowed to name five players in their squads, as opposed to the previous four, which Kenneth Carlsen (Denmark) and Conor Niland (Ireland) have duly done.

Team Denmark

Frederik Nielsen at Wimbledon 2016
Frederik Nielsen at Wimbledon in 2016 | si.robi

As world no.1 and the reigning Australian Open champion, it’s hard for any male Danish player to compete with Caroline Wozniacki’s star power. However, the Danish Davis Cup team can boast of a grand slam champion in their ranks.

In 2012, Frederik Nielsen partnered Jonathan Marray as they surprisingly claimed the Wimbledon doubles title. The pair were wildcards for the event and defeated defending champions Bob and Mike Bryan in the last four.

Now 34 years of age, Nielsen is ranked 242 in doubles and 559 in singles. He has enormous experience in the Davis Cup with 91 matches played for a win-loss record of 54-37.

The remaining squad members are Soren Hess-Olesen (943 in singles), Benjamin Hannestad (1243 in singles), August Holmgren (1354 in singles) and Thomas Kromann (unranked).

While Ireland and Denmark have not faced each other since 2001, the players have clashed on tour.

At a Future in Palma Del Rio last June, Soren Hess-Olesen beat Sam Bothwell in qualifying before retiring against elder brother Pete in the main draw.

Denmark have been in Group II since 2016 and lost a promotion play-off last September to South Africa.

Team Ireland

Pete Bothwell at the 2017 Irish Open
Pete Bothwell at the 2017 Irish Open | Ger Holland

Captain Conor Niland has named a young side for this Group II tie given the absences of James McGee, Sam Barry and David O’Hare.

Pete Bothwell (600 in doubles) is the team’s highest ranked player and the only one to have tasted Davis Cup action before.

The 22-year-old has played five times for Ireland over the past two years and has a win-loss record of 4-1. Bothwell won two doubles titles on the Futures circuit in 2017.

Simon Carr (895 in singles), Julian Bradley (760 in doubles), Sam Bothwell (968 in doubles) and Osgar O’Hoisin (1413 in doubles) are the other players selected for the bout.

18-year-old Carr recently joined the senior tour full-time after ranking as high as 42 on the ITF junior circuit.

Bradley and Sam Bothwell compete in Futures while O’Hoisin, the 2017 Irish National Indoors champion, is on the tennis roster at the University of Wisconsin.

Ireland were promoted to Group II in 2017 after topping a Group III pool that included Montenegro, Andorra and Kosovo.

This tie will be played on an indoor hard court at the Birkerod Idraetscenter, just over 20km north of Copenhagen.

Ireland and Denmark have met five times before in the Davis Cup with the Scandinavians 4-1 leaders in the head-to-head. In the last clash in 2001, Denmark won 3-2 while Ireland’s only success came back in 1933.

The victorious nation will face either Egypt or Norway in the second round.

Update

Frederic Nielsen and Simon Carr at the draw ahead of Denmark v Ireland in the Davis Cup
Frederic Nielsen and Simon Carr at the draw for Denmark v Ireland in the Davis Cup | Danish Tennis Federation

The draw for the tie was made on Friday afternoon. Here's the lineup

Day 1 | Saturday, February 3rd

Frederic Nielsen v Simon Carr

Soren Hess-Olesen v Peter Bothwell

Day 2 | Sunday, February 4th

Nielsen/Thomas Kromann v P. Bothwell/Carr

Nielsen v P. Bothwell

Hess-Olesen v Carr