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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Semi-final favourites look set to take the beating

Serbia appear so weak without Djokovic

Diego Schwartzman hits a return at the US Open last month
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France v Serbia BBC red button, midday Friday
Belgium v Australia BBC red button, 1pm Friday

John Millman has replaced Thanasi Kokkinakis for Australia's Davis Cup semi-final clash with Belgium in Brussels, but there has not been any noticeable change in the matchwinner market.

Australia are still favourites and that's probably right, but Lleyton Hewitt's travellers are no stronger without the talented Kokkinakis.

The Aussies, who are seeking a final place for the first time since 2003, will probably win but star man Nick Kyrgios is a notoriously moody performer. The Canberra ace has said that he has learned from playing in the cup, but how will he react if things start to go belly-up?

Handily, Jordan Thompson looks a promising player, although Hewitt has named Millman in preference to the Sydney 23-year-old for singles duty.

Belgium should be solid enough at home with David Goffin leading the ranks, but fortunately for the Aussies Steve Darcis has been struggling with his game. The veteran could pick himself up for the cup, though.

France look nailed-on to defeat a Serbia side missing Novak Djokovic, Victor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic. Dusan Lajovic and Laslo Djere will battle manfully on the Lille clay, but it's difficult to see what Serbian captain and doubles ace Nenad Zimonjic can do to deny the home nation.

With Lucas Pouille likely to win both singles outings, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could be France's weaker link on days one and three.

The Davis Cup can often be an excellent punting medium, but there is not much value in today’s four day-one World Group rubbers.

Instead, have an interest on Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman defeating Kazakhstan's world number 196 Dmitry Popko in straight sets in a World Group playoff on an indoor hard court in Astana.

Mikhail Kukushkin is favourite to beat Guido Pella in the opening rubber and Schwartz­man, a fine talent on fast hard courts as well as slow clay ones, could strike a blow for the away nation in the second singles clash.

The Japan Open is being shown live on BT Sport 1 daily at 3am and Croatian qualifier Jana Fett is 6-4 to defeat China's Qiang Wang in this morning's last quarter-final clash. Elise Mertens was the 100-30 title favourite going into the last-eight stage in Tokyo.

D Schwartzman to win 3-0
1pt Evs general

Quarter-final details

Belgium v Australia
1pm UK & Ireland time, indoor red clay, Palais 12, Brussels: provisional teams – Belgium: D Goffin (singles ranking 12/doubles ranking 569), S Darcis (77/284), R Bemelmans (92/252), A de Greef (147/944); captain: J van Herck. Australia: N Kyrgios (20/78), J Thompson (70/79), J Millman (185/259), J Peers (-/2); captain: L Hewitt.
Previous meetings: Series level at 2-2 (2-1 to Belgium since 1991)

France v Serbia
Midday UK & Ireland time, outdoor red clay, Stade Pierre Mauray, Lille: provisional teams – France: J-W Tsonga (18/194), L Pouille (22/338), P-H Herbert (66/8), N Mahut (109/5); captain: Y Noah.
Serbia: D Lajovic (80/279), L Djere (95/1,291), F Krajinovic (111/813), N Zimonjic (-/39); captain: N Zimonjic.
Previous meetings: Serbia lead 5-4 (1-0 to Serbia since 1991)

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Lleyton Hewitt's Australian travellers are no stronger without the talented Kokkinakis
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