Argentina, Kazakhstan, and more prevail in drama filled 2015 Davis Cup World Group Round 1
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Round 1 of the 2015 Davis Cup World Group was filled with drama as it brought out the best parts of the Davis Cup, with upsets, comebacks from 2 sets down, and passionate fan support at sites around the globe as players donned the national colors and put in their best effort on behalf of their country. Here is a review of all the action over this past weekend.
Argentina d. Brazil 3-2
Argentina clawed back from 2-1 down in the tie as they were pushed to extra time at home against Brazil. The Friday singles rubbers were split, with Joao Souza winning the first rubber in five sets over Carlos Berlocq, and Leo Mayer claiming the second rubber for Argentina with a four set win over Thomaz Bellucci. Brazil won the doubles as expected as Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares took out Berlocq and Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in straights.
On Sunday, Mayer led the Argentinian battle back, he avoided a collapse from 2 sets up and beat Souza in the second longest match in tennis history, it went over 6 hours as he triumphed on his twelfth match point chance 15-13 in the fifth set. Every set went to at least 5-5 as both players were, as to be expected, exhausted at the end, with Mayer having just that extra edge.
Due to that 6 hour+ match, the final decisive rubber between Federico Delbonis and Bellucci was pushed into extra time on Monday morning, and Delbonis, inspired by Mayer’s triumph, defeated Bellucci in 4 sets, as the Brazilian veteran was the weak link for the team this time.
Kazakhstan d. Italy 3-2
The biggest upset of the weekend came in Astana, as Mikhail Kukushkin inspired his lower ranked Kazakh teammates to a victory over an erratic Italian team that proved to be in disarray by Sunday. Kukushkin beat Simone Bolelli in straights on Friday though Andreas Seppi evened up the tie with a win over Andrey Golubev in 4 sets. The Italians won the doubles rubber as Bolelli and Fabio Fognini beat Alex Nedovyesov and Golubev in four sets, giving them a 2-1 lead.
On Sunday, the Italian choke job was on however, Seppi lost to Kukushkin in a very poor showing, as he failed to take even a set, and then Fognini made matters worse losing in five sets to Nedovyesov from 2 sets to 1 up, after he gotten it back to 5-5 in the fifth set.
It wasn’t the best attended tie of the weekend, but the fans who were in attendance were greatly pleased to see their home boys advancing as Italy will have to fight off relegation now.
Canada d. Japan 3-2
The one-two punch of Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil was too much for Kei Nishikori and Japan. Though Kei performed well, beating Pospisil in straights on Friday, and Raonic in 5 sets on Sunday, the rest of the Japanese team fared poorly. Raonic beat Ito in a straight set drubbing on Friday, Daniel Nestor teamed with Pospisil to win the doubles point in five sets over Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama, and Pospisil dispatched Soeda in a live fifth rubber without dropping a set.
As mentioned in my preview, one has to wonder what might have been for team Japan if they had selected their young guns, Yoshihito Nishioka and Taro Daniel, rather than journeyman veterans Soeda and Ito, in my mind it would have increased their chances to win the tie.
Belgium d. Switzerland 3-2
The highest ranked player on the Swiss team, Yann Marti, stormed off and quit the team after he was not selected to play on Friday singles, and his selfish behavior may have cost his nation the tie, as the severely underdog, and shorthanded Swiss performed admirably, forcing a live fifth rubber to be played on the road in Liege, Belgium.
Henri Laaksonen deserves great credit for the fact the Belgians had to sub in their number one David Goffin, who originally wasn’t planning to play, in order to finish off that fifth rubber. Laaksonen was responsible for both Swiss rubber wins, as he beat Ruben Bemelmans on Friday from 2 sets to love down, Bemelmans collapsing down the stretch, and then beat Steve Darcis in the fourth rubber, also in five sets, as he outlasted the veteran serve and volleyer.
The Belgians earned wins from Darcis over Michael Lammer on Friday, from Bemelmans and Niels Desein over Adrian Bossel and Lammer in Saturday doubles, and as mentioned from Goffin over Bossel in straights, as Belgium had to scratch and claw against a journeyman team to book their place in the quarterfinals.
Australia d. Czech Republic 3-2 (3-1 live rubbers)
Team Australia did have to play live rubber tennis on Sunday, but they were the better team all weekend against the Czechs. Thanasi Kokkinakis added yet another massive accomplishment in his burgeoning career, the young Aussie was selected to open the tie for the Aussies, and he pulled off a brilliant fight back against Lukas Rosol from 2 sets to love down, to give Australia a 1-0 start. Kokkinakis struggled to deal with Rosol’s ballbashing for the first two frames, but won the final three sets 7-5 7-5 6-3, with late breaks sets 3 and four, to grab the victory, never losing belief in himself, as Rosol’s own belief eventually wilted. Bernard Tomic followed up the Kokkinakis triumph with a routine win over fellow young gun Jiri Vesely to put Australia 2-0 up.
The Czechs forced the Aussies to close off the tie on Sunday with an upset win in the doubles by Vesely and Adam Pavlasek over Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt in five sets, but Tomic secured the tie, defeating a struggling Rosol in straight sets in the fourth rubber.
The dead rubber was won by Jan Mertl to conclude the tie at 3-2 in favor of Australia, Mertl dispatching Sam Groth, who appeared to be ready to board his airplane.
France d. Germany 3-2 (3-0 live rubbers)
France got off to a great start and won their tie on Saturday against Germany, Gilles Simon had to survive an onslaught against Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening rubber, finally sneaking past the pesky Germany 10-8 in the fifth, but it was much easier for Gael Monfils, who beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in straights, and also for Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau, who secured the tie with a win in Saturday doubles over Benjamin Becker and Andre Begemann.
Kohlschreiber and Struff beat Simon and Mahut in the dead rubbers to conclude the tie at 3-2 in favor of the French.
Serbia d. Croatia 5-0 (3-0 live rubbers)
Borna Coric lost a 2 sets to love lead against Viktor Troicki in the second Friday singles rubber, and that was the primary contributing factor to the Serbian sweep over the Croatian team. Novak Djokovic beat Mate Delic, and as mentioned, Troicki beat Coric in 5 sets. Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic locked the result of the tie on Saturday with a win over Marin Draganja and Franko Skugor in doubles.
Filip Krajinovic and Troicki won the dead rubbers over Skugor and Delic.
The quarterfinals in the World Group will feature France traveling to face Great Britain, Kazakhstan traveling to face Australia, Serbia going to Argentina and Canada heading to Belgium.
Action Outside The World Group
Santiago Giraldo and Colombia beat Pablo Cuevas and Uruguay 3-2, the inspiring Victor Estrella led the Dominican Republic past Barbados with a pair of wins and a 3-2 overall result, Michael Venus and New Zealand beat China 4-1.
In Europe, Russia beat Denmark 4-1 as Andrey Kuznetsov won two singles rubbers, Austria scratched past Sweden 3-2, from 1-2 down going into play on Sunday. Elias Ymer shocked Jurgen Melzer for a Friday singles win, but he couldn’t defeat Andreas Haider-Maurer on Sunday, and Gerald Melzer secured the tie with a fifth rubber win. Gerald chosen to start over his older, more accomplished brother Jurgen.
Martin Klizan went 3-0 between singles and doubles as Slovakia blanked Slovenia 5-0, Romania demolished Israel 5-0, as Marius Copil and Adrian Ungur both won twice, and Poland beat Lithuania 3-2, as Jerzy Janowicz scored two singles wins.
In group 2 action, the young Chilean squad swept Peru 5-0, Turkey beat South Africa 3-2 as Cem Ilkel, a 19 year old ranked outside of the worlds top 400 beat Ruan Roelofse 6-4 in the fifth set, and Marsel Ilhan scored two wins in singles. Last but not least, Joao Sousa led Portugal to a 4-1 win over Morocco.