SYDNEY, January 5, 2020 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
The first two days of the ATP Cup saw teams settling into the flow of action, such as it was. On the third day matches gained more purpose with places in the quarter-final looking to be filled in.
Grigor Dimitrov and Dimitar Kuzmanov helped Bulgaria win its Group C tie against Moldova 2-1. Kuzmanov started off the day’s good run with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Alexander Cozbinov in an hour and 48 minutes. Not only was this his first win in the ATP Cup, it was also his maiden singles match win on the Tour.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 5, 2020
The World No. 423 elatedly confessed after the match that he was “the happiest person” at the moment.
“As I was giving the interview on the court… I totally forgot that this is also my first ATP match win. I didn’t think about it at all. I was really, really focussed only about my game, just stick with it, the plan, the game plan we had. I think it was working pretty well,” Kuzmanov added.
Bulgaria’s No. 1 player Dimitrov, too, came out the winner in straight sets against his Moldovan counterpart Radu Albot. The former World No. 3 won 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 23 minutes. Post-match, Dimitrov acknowledged that he knew that all he needed to do was take over from Kuzmanov’s efforts.
He said, “I just had to build up the team a little bit for today, and after that it was just all about the game. I think Dimitar did a great job this morning. Obviously, it was a good match on his end. And then I had to make sure I stayed strong throughout the whole match today. That was good.”
In the doubles rubber, Albot and Cozbinov defeated Alexandar Lazarov and Dimitrov 6-4, 7-6(4).
Bulgaria’s win coupled with their heroic first round-robin win over Great Britain on Friday has put them on top of Group C. They are also the second-placed team in the overall team standings, behind Group F’s Australia that has also won both its round-robin ties.
Australia defeated Canada comprehensively 3-0 in their Group F match.
Earlier, Australia suffered a setback when Nick Kyrgios had to be side-lined with back pain. However, Brisbane native John Millman who took his place against Felix Auger-Aliassime proved a point as he notched a 6-4, 6-1 win in an hour and 41 minutes.
After the win, Millman observed that it was easier to play for him despite receiving a late nod to play because he was playing at home. “It’s always difficult, a late call up, but it doesn’t get much easier in a difficult circumstance than when you get to play here in Brisbane, a place where you’re familiar with the court and the surroundings and you know that you’re going to have a vocal crowd in your corner.”
If Millman made it look easy, Alex de Minaur took the harder route against Denis Shapovalov, fending off a set-and-break deficit to put Australia on top. In the derby of the 20-year-olds, the lefthander looked like he was only a few paces away from a win. However, de Minaur’s return into the rubber was quite resounding as he won 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-2 in three hours.
🇦🇺 #TeamAustralia win the match and the tie!
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 5, 2020
In the doubles rubber, John Peers and Chris Guccione rallied from a set down against Auger-Aliassime and Adil Shamasdin to win 3-6, 7-6(3), 10-8 in an hour and 40 minutes.
Following this 3-0 win, Australia has one step into the quarter-finals. If Germany were to beat Greece today in Group F’s evening session tie, Australia would be the first team to make it to the last-eight of the inaugural ATP Cup.
Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini fended off the resilient Norwegian squad to help Italy win its first Group D match.
At the start of play, Stefano Travaglia defeated Viktor Durasovic 6-1, 6-1 in 56 minutes to give Italy the lead. The World No. 84 who had lost to Karen Khachanov in Italy’s first tie against Russia after holding a solid lead later said the difference in the condition of play helped make a difference.
“Today was different conditions than two days ago against Khachanov,” Travaglia said. “The court was faster, the balls faster and the sun was so hot… I started very well, having prepared yesterday with my captain and my coach in the strategy room. I was solid from the first point. I just tried to play my tennis, with my feet inside the court and I tried to go to the net.”
In the second rubber, as he had done in his match against John Isner, Casper Ruud helped Norway level the tie with a 6-2, 6-2 upset over World No. 12 and Italian No. 1 Fognini in just 66 minutes. While Fogninis’ focus seemed to have been interfered with by the heat, Ruud’s lack of erroneousness in the match was just as obvious. This is also the biggest win of the World No. 54’s career.
With the doubles rubber becoming a do-or-die contest for Italy, the experienced team did not disappoint winning it 6-3, 7-6(3) against Ruud and Durasovic in an hour and 30 minutes.
Italy moved into the third place the quarter-final standings, with Norway in contention to be one of the two best second-placed teams (alongside Canada) to move into the final-eight.