France, Switzerland Reach Davis Cup Final; Canada, USA, Croatia to Feature in World Group
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Davis Cup Semifinals:
France d. Czech Republic 4-1
On clay in Paris, a star-studded French team crushed a normally solid Czech team. Richard Gasquet thrashed Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-2 6-3 in the opening singles rubber, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga followed that up with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 win over Lukas Rosol in the second Friday singles rubber. France clinched with a Saturday doubles victory by the in-form Gasquet and Tsonga over Berdych and Radek Stepanek in 4 sets.
The dead rubbers were won by Jiri Vesely against Julien Benneteau in straights, and Gael Monfils over Rosol in 3 sets. There was little drama in this tie as the Czech team was unprepared for a top tier French squad.
Switzerland d. Italy 3-2
This tie extended into Sunday, but it was in the books after four rubbers, and the dynamic Swiss duo of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka earned a big achievement by reaching the Davis Cup final over Italy at home in Geneva. Federer beat Simone Bolelli 7-6 6-4 6-4 and Wawrinka beat Fabio Fognini 6-2 6-3 6-2 to give the Swiss an opening 2-0 lead on Friday. Bolelli and Fognini came back to win the doubles over Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli in 5 sets, but Fognini could not even get a set off of Federer in the fourth Sunday singles rubber. Federer clinched the Swiss a spot in the final 6-2 6-3 7-6 over the Italian number one.
Andreas Seppi won a consolation dead rubber over Swiss B-teamer Michael Lammer in 3 sets in the dead fifth rubber.
World Group Playoffs:
Serbia d. India 3-2
Serbia, minus Novak Djokovic, narrowly avoided being upset by India on the road, prevailing on a live fifth rubber win. Dusan Lajovic and Filip Krajinovic got the Serbian side off to a great start on Friday with a pair of singles wins over Yuki Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman, but Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes kept the tie alive with a doubles win over Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic. On Sunday, Devvarman continued the Indian comeback with a five set win over Lajovic. After a rain delay pushed the tie into Monday, Krajinovic slammed the door with a straight sets win over Bhambri. The Indian team played spirited tennis but it was not enough, as Serbia will stay in the World Group.
Brazil d. Spain 3-1
A massive upset, Spain went down to Sao Paulo and got themselves knocked out of the World Group by an underdog Brazilian team on clay. Thomaz Bellucci was the hero for Brazil as he won a 5 set singles rubber from 2 sets to love down against Pablo Andujar on Friday, after Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut had dispatched Rogerio Dutra Silva in straights in the previous Friday singles rubber. Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, the Brazilian doubles specialists, beat Marc Lopez and David Marrero, the Spanish doubles team to take a 2-1 lead. On Sunday, Bellucci stuck a dagger in Spanish hearts with a 4 set upset win over Bautista Agut, who played poorly. Spanish captain Carlos Moya did not have any top Spanish players besides RBA on his roster, but this is still a massive embarrassment for Spanish tennis to lose so ignominiously to a non-tennis powerhouse like Brazil.
Argentina d. Israel 3-2
A tie that never really seemed in doubt, though it went to a live fifth rubber, Leonardo Mayer beat little-known Israeli futures player Bar Tzuf Botzer in the opening singles rubber on Friday. Israeli veteran Dudi Sela matched his feat with a win over Carlos Berlocq to leave the tie squared up going into Saturday. Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, the Israeli doubles specialist team, beat Federico Delbonis and Horacio Zeballos in 5 sets to give Israel a 2-1 lead, but after Sela meekly bowed out to Leo Mayer in the fourth singles rubber, Berlocq slammed the door, crushing Botzer with a third set bagel. The young Israeli showed signs of promise but the Argentine team was stronger top to bottom and won the day as a result.
Canada d. Colombia 3-2
Milos Raonic joined Bellucci as a Davis Cup star this week. The Canadian number one won a pair of singles rubbers in straight sets to clinch the tie at home in Halifax over an underdog Colombian team. His first win in singles came on Friday over Alejandro Gonzalez, after Vasek Pospisil had defeated Colombian number one Santiago Giraldo in straights. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah extended the tie into live Sunday play with a win over Daniel Nestor and Pospisil in doubles, but a Raonic win in the opening Sunday rubber over Giraldo finished the tie. Gonzalez beat Frank Dancevic in a dead fifth rubber. The Canadian team continues to gel well together and should be a threat in the World Group.
USA d. Slovakia 5-0
It was a comfortable white-washing for the USA in Chicago. John Isner and Sam Querrey combined to win six consecutive sets of tennis against Norbert Gombos and Martin Klizan on Friday, the Bryans clinched the tie on Saturday with a crushing doubles win over Gombos and Lukas Lacko, and then Isner and Querrey wiped up against Lacko and Gombos in the dead rubbers.
Australia d. Uzbekistan 5-0
A fast grass court in Perth helped Lleyton Hewitt and company dominate Uzbekistan. The young Nick Kyrgios and Hewitt combined to win six consecutive sets of tennis on Friday over Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov respectively, then Chris Guccione and Hewitt beat Dustov/Istomin to clinch the tie with a doubles victory. Sam Groth and Kyrgios won dead rubbers over Temur Ismailov and Sanjar Fayziev as the Uzbek team went 0-13 on sets in this tie.
Croatia d. Netherlands 3-2
Marin Cilic carried his team into the World Group, coming off his career best US Open victory. In Friday action, Mate Delic, who primarily plays on the challenger circuit, upset ATP regular Igor Sijsling in 4 sets to give Croatia a 1-0 lead. Robin Haase countered for the Dutch over young Croat Borna Coric in straights to make it 1-1. Cilic and Marin Draganja won the doubles rubber over Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer to make it 2-1 in favor of Croatia. Robin Haase forced a live fifth rubber with a 5 set win over Delic, coming back from 2 sets down, but Cilic stepped into the breach and beat Thiemo De Bakker in 4 sets to clinch the tie, a massive result for Croatian tennis.
Belgium d. Ukraine 3-2
This tie was moved from Ukraine due to the military conflict situation there and played in Estonia on indoor hard. An in-form Belgium team rolled off three straight victories after outspoken Ukranian Sergiy Stakhovsky beat Steve Darcis in the opening Friday singles rubber. David Goffin beat Illya Marchenko in straights, Ruben Bemelmans and Oliver Rochus beat Stakhovsky and Sergei Bubka in the doubles rubber, and Goffin beat Stako in straights on Sunday to clinch the tie. The dead rubber was won by Marchenko over Darcis. If Goffin continues to play well, Belgium may be a dangerous dark horse opponent in the world group.