Argentina Fights Past Poland At ATP Cup

SYDNEY, January 4, 2020 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)

Saturday’s day session action at the ATP Cup veered on predictable lines except for a couple of upsets, not only in singles but also in the doubles rubber.

Sydney

In the Group E tie between Argentina and Poland, the South Americans claimed a hard-won 2-1 win.

To begin the proceedings, in what was their first career meeting, Hubert Hurkacz caused the first of the two upsets aforementioned with a three-set win over Diego Schwartzman. The 22-year-old stunned the World No. 14 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 after two hours and 18 minutes of play.

Schwartzman struggled with his first serves – putting just 53 per cent of these in to Hurkacz’s 69 per cent. He won 71 per cent points of his first service. But the Pole was better here as well, winning 77 per cent of his first serves. His hefty first-serve percentage also helped Hurkacz save five of the six break points he faced.

In the second rubber, Guido Pella came out on top with a win over Kamil Majchrzak. Another three-setter this, with the World No. 25 taking it 6-2, 2-6 in two hours and four minutes to help Argentina level the match at 1-1.

A euphoric Pella, speaking after the match, said thanking the crowd, “I didn’t know that Sydney has so many Argentines, so it was a big shock for me. It was almost full, the stadium. They were cheering for me, so it was a very nice atmosphere for the first tournament of the year.”

In the doubles rubber, Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni teamed up to defeat Hurkacz and Lukasz Kubot 6-2, 6-4.

“We had the responsibility to go and to give the point to Argentina, and hopefully we [would] play good and we [would] get the point,” Molteni said. “So it was really exciting and we are really happy now [about] playing well and giving the point to Argentina.”

Brisbane

Benoit Paire and Gael Monfils helped France take an unassailable 2-0 lead over Chile after the singles rubber. Their wins in their singles rubbers eventually helped the 2018 Davis Cup champions win the Group A match 2-1 to start their ATP Cup journey.

Paire led France’s strong start with a win over Nicolas Jarry 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and 12 minutes. Paire shrugged off a set and a break deficit against the World No. 77 and alongside helping France go ahead in the match, also kept his head-to-head record – 3-0, after this match – intact against the youngster.

Following the match, Paire spoke about the team atmosphere that added to the significance of the win. “I feel good, I feel confident and really happy to play. So it was important for me, and I think it’s important for the French team because we enjoy to play together. We are very happy to be here and, honestly, with the team it’s not like a normal team, it’s a more fun team,” he stated.

Monfils backed this strong start with a straight-sets win over Cristian Garin 6-3, 7-5 in an hour and 19 minutes. Monfils won 81 per cent of his first-service points and converted three of the four break points he had to remain untroubled in the match despite being broken at the start of the second set.

In his post-match address, Monfils mentioned this and said, “It was great today. I think he had a good period in the second set, actually a strong period. It shook me a little bit. But I think slowly I get back in shape. I had a good pre-season and then I had to stop because I hurt a bit myself during the pre-season. And then I come back a little bit stronger. And here I was hitting it quite a lot actually and it felt great.”

In the doubles rubber, Jarry and Garin, however, upset the more-experienced French team of Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-5, 6-2.

Perth

Japan moved past the naysaying about Kei Nishikori’s 11th hour withdrawal debilitating them at the ATP Cup, in an inspiring fashion. Japan claimed a solid 3-0 win over Uruguay in Group B’s first match of the tournament.

Go Soeda defeated the 523rd ranked Martin Cuevas 6-1, 6-3 in an hour of 17 minutes to give Japan the lead. “It went well, especially the beginning of the first set was very good. But I was really nervous. But I had a plan to do the long rallies, especially in the first set,” Soeda shared.

The 35-year-old who was once ranked 47th in the world but who has since slipped down to 121 also opened up to say that upping his rankings is one of the goals, he has this season. “My goal is to return to my best [FedEx] ATP Ranking of No. 47, but the real target is always Top 80, Top 90.”

Yoshihito Nishioka, the highest-ranked Japanese player in Nishikori’s absence, backed Soeda’s win by getting the better of Cuevas’ sibling, Pablo. The 73rd ranked left-hander dropped just one game to win the rubber 6-0, 6-1 in merely 54 minutes.

Despite the one-sided score-line, Nishioka said after the match that Cuevas was not an easy opponent to face. “I have to work hard to win points, and this year I’m trying to be more aggressive and use my strengths. I played well today and everything worked out.”

Lastly, in the doubles rubber, Toshihide Matsui and Ben McLachlan defeated Ariel Behar and Pablo Cuevas 7-6(5), 6-4 to help Japan go to the top of their Group’s standings.