2016 Davis Cup World Group Round 1 Recap: Serbia Survives, Czechs and Americans Prevail
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup World Group saw no opening round upsets this year, though a star studded Serbia team was put to the test against Kazakhstan. Here is a recap of all the weekend Davis Cup action.
Great Britain d. Japan 3-1
Andy Murray nearly did it alone for team GB in Birmingham. The British #1 demolished Taro Daniel on Friday, then teamed with his brother Jamie to handle the Japanese doubles team of Yasutaka Uchiyama and Yoshihito Nishioka on Saturday. Kei Nishikori had beaten Dan Evans in a competitive three set contest on Friday to force competitive action on Saturday, but he would need to get past Murray to force a live fifth rubber.
Murray quickly build a two set lead, at which point Nishikori had his back against the wall. Kei forced a fifth set with improved play, but after five breaks of serve in the final set, Murray served the match out to win the tie. The fifth rubber was then canceled as Birmingham native Dan Evans was only needed once. Next for the defending champion Brits is team Serbia on the road.
Serbia d. Kazakhstan 3-2
Serbia had a top 20 doubles player,the world #1 singles player Novak Djokovic, and top 30 player Viktor Troicki on their squad. On paper, they should have swept at Kazakh team playing on the road without a top 50 player. When it came to the actual matches, the result ended up being quite different. Djokovic started the tie with a routine win over challenger veteran Aleksandr Nedovyesov in straight sets, but team leader Mikhail Kukushkin steadied his team and upset Viktor Troicki in straight sets to even the tie at 1-1 on Friday.
Andrey Golubev and Nedovyesov then combined to stun Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic for the biggest win of their career in doubles. Even more shockingly, the Golubev/Nedovyesov tandem got the job done in straight sets, as Djokovic was well off his game.
Facing elimination, Djokovic went up against Kukushkin in an all out war for the first three sets. Kukushkin won the first set in a tiebreak, lost the second set tiebreak, and then came back to win the third set, putting Serbia just a set away from elimination. Djokovic upped his game at that point however, overcoming any injury or rust he may be carrying to win the final two sets 6-3 6-2 and force a live fifth rubber.
Called on for the third time in the tie, Nedovyesov lost in straight sets to Troicki, who shook off his poor showing on Friday to erase any doubts of a Kazakh miracle win. Serbia still has some great players, but they won’t be able to afford to play so poorly against team GB in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, you have to admire the fight and warrior’s heart of the underdog Kazakh team.
Italy d. Switzerland 5-0
On indoor clay, Italy proved too much for a lowly ranked Swiss team. Marco Chiudinelli gave it his all in the opening tie, only to lose in a long fifth set to Paolo Lorenzi, a true dirtballing warrior. Andreas Seppi then finished off Henri Laaksonen in four competitive sets to give Italy a 2-0 lead.
In the final live rubber, Seppi and Simone Bolelli dominated an exhausted Chiudinelli/Laaksonen in straight sets to win the tie. In the dead rubbers, Lorenzi beat Davis Cup débutante Antoine Bellier, and Marco Cecchinato beat Adrien Bossel, both in straight sets. Italy will host Argentina in the quarterfinals.
Argentina d. Poland 3-2 (3-1 on live rubbers)
This tie was live on Sunday, but the Poles simply lacked the talent to defeat Argentina, even with the crowd behind them. The experienced Leonardo Mayer defeated Hubert Hurkacz, and Guido Pella defeated Michal Przysiezny in straight sets on Friday to give Argentina 2-0 lead. Poland then called on their veterans Marcin Matkowski and Lukasz Kubot to keep the tie alive, and they did so, defeating Carlos Berlocq and Renzo Olivo in four sets.
Mayer then defeated Przysiezny from a set down to win the tie, with Hurkacz winning his first Davis Cup rubber over Olivo in a dead fifth rubber. Argentina will travel to Italy for their next tie.
France d. Canada 5-0
The Caribbean paradise of Guadeloupe saw the French tricolore waved proudly as a loaded French team dominated a weakened Canadian one without dropping a set. Gael Monfils demolished Frank Dancevic, and Gilles Simon outdueled Vasek Pospisil on clay to take a 2-0 lead on Friday. Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga then defeated Pospisil and Philip Bester to win the doubles rubber and capture the tie. Gasquet beat Bester in the dead fourth rubber, and Dancevic retired in the dead fifth rubber. France will next travel to the Czech Republic with a great chance to win the Davis Cup.
Czech Republic d. Germany 3-2
An injury to Tomas Berdych resulted in this tie going to a live fifth rubber, but young gun Alexander Zverev was the weak link for team Germany at home. Philipp Kohlschreiber lead the way for Germany, winning an opening fifth set match against Lukas Rosol. Berdych then fired back with a tough five set win over Zverev, who put his heart and soul into the match. Berdych and veteran Radek Stepanek won the doubles in straight sets over Kohlschreiber and veteran Philipp Petzschner.
In the live fourth rubber, Kohlschreiber won the first two sets over Berdych, who then promptly retired with an injury. That thrust Zverev into the spotlight against Rosol, but the big hitting Czech demolished him 6-2 6-3 6-1. Zverev was never really into the match, even though it should have been more competitive. The Czech Republic will host France next.
USA d. Australia 3-1
The unretirement of Lleyton Hewitt wasn’t enough to save Australia on grass against team USA in a battle between two of tennis’ historical giants. John Isner was the hero for team USA as the big server won matches over Sam Groth in straights on Friday, and Bernard Tomic in four sets on Sunday to clinch the tie. Isner had a surprisingly great return game on grass.
Tomic beat Jack Sock in four sets on Friday, and the Bryan Brothers beat John Peers, and Aussie captain Lleyton Hewitt in the doubles tie, though it went five sets, and Hewitt played quite well for a (just) retired player. Despite the leadership of Hewitt, the Australian team had a running spat all weekend about whether young gun Nick Kyrgios was fit enough to play and should have helped his country out. A frustrated Bernard Tomic accused Kyrgios of faking an injury in the match against Isner.
With the result, team USA will host Croatia in the quarterfinals.
Croatia d. Belgium 3-2
The young Borna Coric won a live fifth rubber to send Croatia into the quarterfinals of the World Group, and end the hopes of Belgium to reach the Davis Cup final once more. Coric lost his five set contest with David Goffin on Friday, though he battled to the end from 2 sets to love down. Marin Cilic beat Kimmer Coppejans in straight sets on Friday though to even the tie at 1-1.
Ivan Dodig and Franko Skugor then got the job done for Croatia over Ruben Bemelmans and Goffin. Goffin scored a minor upset over Cilic to force a live fifth rubber. With Bemelmans injured, Coppejans was called on again, and that was when Coric won in straight sets to send Croatia through.
Action outside the World Group
Wins for Ecuador and Chile in Americas Group 1 one set them up for battles with Brazil and Colombia respectively for a spot in the World Group Playoffs. India will face Korea, and China will face Uzbekistan in the final round of Asia’s Group 1. In Europe/Africa Group 1, Romania beat Slovenia, Dominic Thiem and Austria handled Portugal, Russia beat Sweden, and Hungary slipped past Israel. Romania hosts Spain, Ukraine hosts Austria, Russia hosts the Netherlands, and Hungary hosts Slovakia for spots in the World Group playoffs.
In notable Europe/Africa group 2 ties, Bosnia’s Mirza Basic won an 18-16 fourth set tiebreak and went on to lead his nation to a win over Malek Jaziri and Tunisia. Marsel Ilhan won twice to give Turkey a win over Bulgaria in a battle of neighbors in Ankara, Turkey.