World number two Novak Djokovic headlines the opening tie with the Serbian looking to avenge for his premature exit at the Australian Open last month to the hands of 117th ranked Denis Istomin.
Serbia will be buoyed by their quarterfinal appearance in 2016 – falling to Great Britain on the clay courts with Djokovic and Andy Murray in a watching brief – while Russia will be seeking to establish themselves in the World Group after battling through Europe/Africa Zone Group I and defeating Kazakhstan in a World Group playoff.
The pair’s only previous meeting came in the first-round 2008 when Nikolay Davydenko defeated both Djokovic and Troicki to carry Russia to a nail-biting 3-2 victory.
Djokovic the star, Khachanov the one to watch
Undoubtedly all eyes will be fixed on the return of the former world number one after a shock Grand Slam exit but Karen Khachanov, the highest seeded Russian at 52, will raise a few eyebrows.
The 20-year-old claimed his first title on the ATP tour last year when he reigned triumphant in Chengdu during the fall.
Djokovic, who is scheduled to square off against the talented Russian for the first time on Sunday, warned his teammates against the talent currently brimming from the Russian outfit.
“Russia are a young team and we can't underestimate them,” he told the Davis Cup official website.
“They are all in the top 100, they can all play singles and doubles so it’s not going to be easy by any means.”
Khachanov, meanwhile, is relishing the atmosphere inside the 4,000-seater arena, expected to be packed with those of a Serbian persuasion eager to catch a glimpse of the world number two.
“It’s always nice to play when the stadium is full and hopefully the fans will cheer for us too. It will be a great experience for both me and [Daniil] Medvedev.”
Troicki and Medvedev to play a crucial role
While much of the spotlight will shine of the aforementioned duo, both Viktor Troicki and Daniil Medvedev will do battle on day three that could decide the outcome of the weekend.
Troicki has become notorious for his on-court tirades but the 30-year-old is ranked inside the world’s top 40 though, alarmingly, lost his only meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow last year.
The 20-year-old prevailed 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 and has continued to develop, reaching the final in Chennai last month which prompted Russia’s captain, Shamil Tarpischev, to include the youngster in a crucial first-round World Group tie.
In the opening rubber of the weekend, Troicki is set to face Khachanov while the 20-year-old Medvedev is sure to be in for a baptism of fire in the following encounter against Djokovic.
Troicki will then team up with team captain Nenad Zimonjic to square off against Konstantin Kravchuck and Kuznetsov.
Day three, meanwhile, sees Djokovic open in a mouthwatering clash against Khachanov followed by Troicki’s showdown with Medvedev.