The United States Davis Cup team begins its campaign for a 2023 title with a qualifying tie in Uzbekistan this weekend, the second time in the last three iterations of the competition Team USA has played the Uzbeks in the qualifying round.
The tie will be contested on Friday and Saturday on indoor hard courts in Tashkent, with Friday’s play beginning at 3 a.m. ET and Saturday’s slate starting at 2 a.m. ET. (TV: Tennis Channel.)
The American squad is led by Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul, who broke into the Top 20 for the first time on Monday at world No. 19.
Mackenzie McDonald, who upset Rafael Nadal in the Aussie Open second round, was named the No. 2 singles player for the U.S., with Denis Kudla also on the squad. Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek will represent Team USA in doubles under interim captain David Nainkin and assistant Dean Goldfine.
“I think we have a really good group of guys together,” said Paul, who is playing in his sixth Davis Cup tie.
“We’re all happy to be here. I think doing well in Davis Cup is high on the priority list for all of us. So I think we’re all really excited to get going and hopefully we have a really good Davis Cup year.”
Paul will face Uzbekistan’s No. 2 singles player, Khumoyun Sultanov, on Friday after McDonald opens the tie against the opposition’s No. 1 singles player, Sergey Fomin. On Saturday, Ram and Krajicek will play Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev before Paul takes on Fomin, with McDonald vs. Sultanov slated as the final rubber.
While the Uzebek squad does not feature a player inside the singles Top 300—the 21-year-old Fomin is world No. 366, and 24-year-old Sultanov world No. 480—Nainkin is expecting a tough test from the home team led by player/captain Denis Istomin.
“The depth in men’s tennis is incredible, what it’s done over the last 10 years,” he said in a Thursday press conference. “We’re expecting really tough competition. Our guys are ready for the challenge. We’ve acclimated to the surface, and we’re really looking forward to a great battle and a great weekend.”
The depth of American men’s tennis in particular makes the U.S. a legitimate threat to win its first David Cup trophy since 2007 this year. The nation’s 32 Davis Cup titles are the most in the competition’s history.
“About American tennis, we’re fortunate enough to have…  players inside the Top 50 for the first time since 1996, so that’s incredible,” said Nainkin, who called it “a dream come true” to captain the team. “We have a lot of players doing well, from Taylor [Fritz] starting at Wimbledon, and then Frances [Tiafoe] at the US Open and Tommy now in Australia.
“When one player starts doing well, it really drives the bus, so we’re excited about it. Davis Cup’s a huge priority for all the players and for the USA, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The winner of the USA vs. Uzbekistan tie advances to the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals in September. The knockout rounds—contested by the ‘Final 8’—will be played November 21-26 in Malaga, Spain, to crown the 2023 champion.
The U.S. has won each of its previous two Davis Cup ties against Uzbekistan, in 2015 and 2020. In the 2020 qualifying tie, Paul defeated Istomin in a 4-0 victory for Team USA in Honolulu.