SYDNEY, January 6, 2020 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
The race to the quarter-finals heated up on Tuesday at the ATP Cup even as rains came forth, providing a welcome respite for the country ravaged by bushfires.
Japan put themselves in a strong position to reach the last-eight with a 2-1 win over Georgia in their Group B round-robin tie. Yoshihito Nishioka and Go Soeda propelled Japan to a virtual win with their respective victories in the singles rubber.
Soeda started off the day’s run for Japan with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Aleksandre Metreveli in two hours and 15 minutes. Metreveli who had been bagelled by Roberto Bautista Agut in their first Group B tie had a lot to avenge and he began the match with heartened purposefulness. On how he had managed to tilt the rubber in his favour,
Soeda said, “He was playing well and also, I was super tight, because I needed to win the match, especially as the No. 2 singles player. But from the second set, I just tried to focus, focus on the points. I had no idea how he played, so I watched YouTube and the match against Spain. It was really tough to play him; he has a huge forehand.”
In the second rubber, Nishioka defeated the top-ranked Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 23 minutes. This was the first career meeting between the two players.
“I tried to do what he doesn’t want to do. I know he likes to hit the ball hard. For sure he can hit an ace many times, but he misses many times, as well. I tried to make a lot of balls using my tennis style – moving a lot, using the moon ball,” the lefthander said, after the win.
The Georgian doubles team of Aleksandre Bakshi and Zura Tkemaladze saved the team from some blushes after beating the Japanese duo of Ben McLachlan and Toshihide Matsui 6-2, 6-4.
South Africa outplayed Chile to claim a 3-0 win in their Group A tie, and enter the top-six contenders’ list for the quarter-finals.
Twenty-two-year-old Lloyd Harris gave the South Africans their first win of the day by taking his singles rubber against Nicolas Jarry 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 21 minutes. Jarry, who has now lost both his opening matches of the 2020 season, is on an eight-match losing streak extending back to 2019.
On his win, Harris commented, “I’m super happy. I went down early at the start with the break, but came back strong straight away, broke him to love, and I think I just built on confidence from there. Started serving well, hitting some spots, going more for percentage and I feel like I just constructed the match very well and it panned out as I wanted.”
Kevin Anderson, who lost to Novak Djokovic narrowly in the first Group A tie, followed this win with a victory of his own over Cristian Garin. The two-time Major finalist won 6-0, 6-3 in an hour and 14 minutes. “A little bit physically draining after my first match. It’s always, as much as you work off the court, it’s always a little bit different being in a match environment. But a really good day of recovery yesterday and my body felt really good being out there today,” Anderson said, speaking to the media post-match.
In the doubles rubber, Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse defeated Jarry and Garin 1-6, 6-3, 10-7.
Croatia moved into the fourth place of the top-six teams poised to reach the quarter-finals with their 2-1 victory over Poland in Group E. If they were to win their final tie against Argentina, they will be a part of Thursday’s final-eight line-up.
Former US Open champion Marin Cilic gave Croatia the lead with a 7-6(8), 6-4 win over the 448th ranked Kacper Zuk. The 38th ranked Cilic needed two hours and nine minutes to win his second rubber at the ATP Cup. Dissecting his game afterward, Cilic observed, “The level was very good again. Good serving. Today, if I have to pick some things that I need to do better, it’s just converting break points. I had a lot of them. But otherwise, I felt that the level was quite good. I was being aggressive.”
Croatia’s sole loss came courtesy of Hubert Hurkacz’s inspired brilliance against the World No. 28 Borna Coric. The 37th ranked Hurkacz upset Coric, who is ranked nine places above him in the ATP rankings 6-2, 6-2 in just an hour and 10 minutes. Hurkacz hit 19 winners throughout the match. Coric’s 28 unforced errors also contributed towards his victory.
The doubles rubber was thoroughly entertaining with Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic putting on a show against Lukasz Kubot and Hurkacz. The Croats blitzed past the Polish team 6-2, 6-1.
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 6, 2020