Murray, Hewitt, and Rublev Star in Weekend Davis Cup Action
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup had some exciting ties over the weekend as young guns, veterans, and a few top players starred in the action worldwide. Here is a recap of everything worth noting that went down.
Australia, Great Britain, Belgium and Argentina Advance From World Group Quarterfinals
The most anticipated tie of the weekend was between team GB and France at London Queen’s club on grass, and it did not disappoint as an emotional Andy Murray single handedly carried his team to a 3-1 victory in the tie. Murray had a part in all three of the needed wins for the players sporting the Union Jack, he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with ease on Friday, won a crucial doubles point with his brother Jamie in 4 sets on Saturday, and then closed out the tie with a win against Gilles Simon after dropping the first set. Simply put, the French team didn’t perform up to the level needed to defeat Murray, as their depth couldn’t beat the British star power.
James Ward lost the other rubber to Simon on Friday as he couldn’t repeat his Davis Cup heroics of previous ties.
The next opponent for the British will be their Commonwealth partners Australia, as the green and gold clawed back from 0-2 down on Friday against Kazakhstan and relied on the steady veteran presence of Lleyton Hewitt to push them into the semis. The Aussie young guns Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios both played poorly with the pressure on Friday, Kokkinakis failed to win a set against the veteran Mikhail Kukushkin on grass, while Kyrgios lost a 4 setter to Aleksandr Nedovyesov, and stated after that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be there playing DC.
Aussie captain Wally Masur, and Captain in waiting Lleyton Hewitt seemed to take that statement to heart, as Hewitt stepped up himself in his final year as a pro player. The veteran took part in the doubles rubber with the big serving Sam Groth and won it over Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev, and then Groth beat Kukushkin in four sets, and Hewitt closed out Nedovyesov in straights to win the tie. He’s struggled all year in singles, but in what could have been his final Davis Cup match, Hewitt played fantastic, and proved why he’s one of the most tenacious battlers the game will ever see.
GB vs. Australia could well be something special with Hewitt, Murray, the Aussie young guns with a chance to redeem themselves, and a pro British crowd filling the stands in the UK as they look for a spot in the Davis Cup final.
The fatally weakened teams of Serbia and Canada both slumped to defeat against Argentina and Belgium respectively, Team Serbia lacked Novak Djokovic and on the road in Argentina on clay they clearly struggled without his talent and leadership. Leonardo Mayer and Federico Delbonis scored singles wins on Friday over Filip Krajinovic and Viktor Troicki, Delbonis’ win coming from two sets to love down, and then on Saturday Mayer and Carlos Berlocq clinched the tie with a routine win over Troicki/Nenad Zimonjic. The dead rubbers resulting in the tie ending 4-1.
Team Canada was without their injured stars Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic and without their big serving, they were whitewashed 5-0 by an undersized Belgian team on clay in Belgium. The Canadian team was uncomfortable on the slow surface, as Steve Darcis beat veteran journeyman Frank Dancevic in four sets,and David Goffin rolled young gun Filip Peliwo in straights. The tie was then clinched by Ruben Bemelmans/Kimmer Coppejans who beat the veteran rock of Daniel Nestor, and Adil Shamasdin in the doubles tie. Coppejans and Darcis beat Dancevic and Peliwo in the dead rubbers to complete the rout.
Argentina will travel to Belgium in an interesting tie that will decide the other finalist spot.
Russia, India among teams with chance at 2016 World Group Participation
Group 1 ties also took place across the globe and the biggest story was Russia toppling a B-list Spanish Armada to book their spot in the world group playoffs. The Spanish team, led by veteran Tommy Robredo, got off to a good start on indoor hard on the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok far on the Asian side of Russia. Robredo beat young gun Andrey Rublev in straights, making Rublev extremely flustered, and Pablo Andujar beat Karen Khachanov also in straights for a 2-0 lead. However it was clear the Russians had more team unity and spirit, while the Spanish, with turmoil in their federation and a recent change in coaches, couldn’t seal the deal. Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk beat Marc Lopez/David Marrero, one of the top doubles teams in the world in a shocking five set Saturday upset. On Sunday Donskoy upset Robredo in 4 sets, and then Rublev was the hero, winning a surprisingly routine 5th rubber over Andujar. After some time in the wilderness, Russia, a nation with a strong history in tennis, is close to returning to the top tier of the Davis Cup, while Spain will spend another year away from the spotlight.
Also advancing from Europe’s group 1 are the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia. The Dutch upset Austria on the road and on clay, as Dominic Thiem choked away a ton of break points to hand Thiemo De Bakker an opening rubber win in five sets, and though Andreas Haider-Maurer steadied the ship with a win over Robin Haase to make the tie 1-1, Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer won the doubles over Jurgen Melzer/Oliver Marach, and then Haase beat a disoriented Thiem in straights to clinch. The tie ended 3-2 as the Austrians won the dead rubber, but all the same it was a surprisingly clutch performance from a Dutch team made up of well known headcases, while the young gun Thiem failed under pressure and now has a lot to think about.
The Poles won 3-1 over Ukraine, their team had more depth and it showed on indoor hard in Poland. Alex Dolgopolov of Ukraine won the opening rubber over Jerzy Janowicz in straights, but Michal Przysiezny scored a minor upset in straights over Sergiy Stakhovsky, Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski beat Dolgopolov and Denys Molchanov in double, and Janowicz closed out the tie with a four set win over Stakhovsky.
Slovakia went 1-0 down on the road against Romania on clay,as Marius Copil beat Norbert Gombos in a thrilling 12-10 5th set tiebreak, but then they rolled off three consecutive rubber wins to clinch the tie between the two former Eastern Bloc nations. Martin Klizan beat Adrian Ungur and Copil in singles, and in between Andrej Martin/Igor Zelejnay upset Florin Mergea/Horia Tecau, a top 5 doubles team, to win the pivotal doubles rubber, as the tie again ended 3-2 with a Romanian dead rubber win.
In Asia’s group 1 Uzbekistan and India were winners, as expected. Denis Istomin carried his Uzbek team with a doubles rubber win partnering with Farrukh Dustov, and two singles wins over South Korea, as Hyeon Chung, the young gun leading the Korean team, came down injured in the 4th and decisive rubber. India beat New Zealand despite the best efforts of Michael Venus and company, Somdev Devvarman recovered from a five set loss from two sets up on Friday in singles, and beat Marcus Daniell on Sunday, while Yuki Bhambri was key as he scored two singles wins over Jose Statham and Venus, his routine win over Venus in a live fifth rubber.
In the America’s group 1 on clay, Colombia slipped past Uruguay 3-2, and the Dominican Republic slipped past Ecuador 3-1(3-2). Alejandro Gonzalez went a key 2-0 in singles as Pablo Cuevas’s Uruguay came up just short. Pablo and his brother Martin played all the matches for Uruguay, winning the doubles rubber and the 4th rubber (P. Cuevas d. Giraldo) to force a live fifth rubber from 2-0 down at the start of Saturday, but Gonzalez closed out Martin for the win. Victor Estrella did what Andy Murray and Denis Istomin did, carrying the load for the DR even at his age as they beat a weak Ecuador team that lacked any sort of top player. Estrella won the 1st, and 4th rubbers, along with the doubles rubber.
Results from Group 2 as Dimitrov and Sousa star in wins
Chile blanked Mexico 5-0 in the Americas’ group 2, Pakistan will face Taiwan in the 3rd round of round 2 in Asia, and in Europe it will be Portugal vs. Belarus and Hungary vs. Bulgaria. Of note, Grigor Dimitrov played for Bulgaria this weekend (they won 5-0 over Luxembourg) and Joao Sousa ensured the Fins lost 4-1, they were led by veteran Jarkko Nieminen.