Zverev Comes Up Short Against Tsitsipas, But Germany Wins Battle Over Greece At ATP Cup

BRISBANE, January 5, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Andreas Mies and Kevin Krawietz of Germany saved six match points against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas and Michail Pervolarakis and prevailed 17-15 in a third-set super tie-break to earn their country’s first tie victory at the 2020 ATP Cup Sunday evening in Brisbane.

Following a split of the earlier singles rubbers, the Germany-Greece tie came down to the decisive doubles rubber. Mies and Krawietz, the reigning French Open champions and 2019 Nitto ATP Finals qualifiers, quickly found themselves down 0-5 against their Greek opponents. However, point by point, they worked themselves out of the hole they dug for themselves and saved match points at 8-9, 10-11, 11-12, 12-13, 13-14 and 14-15 before securing the 27-minute tie-break. Mies and Krawietz won the rubber on their second match point to clinch Germany’s victory, 3-6, 6-3, 17-15, after one hour and 38 minutes.

“It’s hard to express my feelings right now; it was an unbelievable match,” said Mies during an on-court interview after clinching the tie for Germany. ”I’m really happy we won the match and got the win for Germany.”

Krawietz added to his teammate’s feelings: “To play for our country and win the deciding doubles in front of a big crowd is an incredible feeling for us.”

Later during his team’s press conference, Mies said: “I’m very proud how we came back and we fought hard. And Boris believes in us, the whole team was behind us all the way through and I’m so happy to win it in the end.

“It’s an honor to be part of this team and to play these type of matches. That’s what you practice for and that’s what you play for all these years, to be in this position and to win the match like this. There’s nothing better to finish the match point in the end.”

And what did Boris Becker, Germany’s captain, think about the outcome? “I trust my guys; they’re amazing under pressure. It’s much harder to coach than to play,” he said on court.

Later, in press, Becker reflected upon his team’s victory, which came just two days after Germany was shutout 3-0 by Australia.

“If it ends like this, I don’t mind staying all night long here,” he said. “A big compliment to my players here that they kept their nerves. Most other teams would have given up, and they kept their nerves, they kept fighting, they kept believing, and they played well at the end.

“The whole team, even after the 3-0 against Australia, we stuck together. We worked it yesterday, we had dinner together, and they we spoke about how we wanted to approach today, and everybody believed.”

Germany’s victory over Greece means that host Australia has clinched Group F, thanks to its 3-0 win over Canada on Sunday afternoon. The Aussies (2-0) are the first country to advance to the Final Eight at Sydney.

The Germany-Greece tie began well for the Germans after 35th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff put his team ahead with his 6-4, 6-1 win over Pervolarakis, who is ranked No. 487. He capitalized on four service breaks and outpointed his opponent 61-43.

Then, the focus turned to the No. 1 singles showdown between World No. 6 Tsitsipas and World No. 7 Alexander Zverev. Both lost their respective openers, Tsitsipas to No. 15 Denis Shapovalov of Canada and Zverev against No. 18 Alex de Minaur from Australia – and both teams were shut out, too. This time, Tsitsipas won his fifth straight against Zverev, 6-1, 6-4. He’s been perfect since losing to Zverev at the 2018 Citi Open semifinals in Washington, D.C.

The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion broke Zverev four times and took advantage of 10 double faults by the German star. Tsitsipas was the better player Sunday evening and his confidence spoke volumes. He won 83 percent (24 of 29) of his first-serve points and dropped just 11 points on his serve overall. Tsitsipas outpointed his demonstrative opponent 62-38. At times, Zverev was prone to verbal outbursts during the 73-minute match and didn’t always seemed focused on court.

“My serving isn’t back yet. Simple as that,” said Zverev, whose first-serve percentage was a paltry 45 percent. “I’m serving 120 kilometers an hour, that’s not really going to cut it.”

And what did Tsitsipas think of his evening? “I’m proud of my singles. Doubles went good as well,” he said during his post-tie press conference. “I’m very proud of myself the way I played and at the same time I feel disappointed. I came so close and, obviously, we’re not the favorites. But we could have been the ones that made the surprise today and we didn’t, which is such a shame.”

When Tsitsipas was asked to reflect upon the excitement of the doubles rubber, he said: “It was nuts. People loved it. We got a lot of support, more than them, and that’s what makes it more terrible.”

Russia succeeds over U.S. in Perth

Meanwhile, both Russia and Belgium came into their respective Sunday evening ties hoping to build upon the momentum from 3-0 opening-day triumphs. Only one of them succeeded. Russia beat the United States 2-1, while Belgium fell to Great Britain 2-1.

The Russians added to the mounting disappointment shown by the United States. Following their surprising 2-1 loss to underdog Norway on Friday, the Americans hoped to rebound in Group D play in Perth. However, Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev had other ideas. No. 17 Khachanov came from a set down to beat No. 32 Taylor Fritz, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, in one hour and 52 minutes in the tie opener on the strength of his 12 service aces.

Then, World No. 5 Medvedev out-aced No. 19 John Isner six to four en route to an easy 6-3, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles. The 23-year-old Medvedev played comfortable and sharp in a battle of big hitters and broke Isner four times. He hit 24 winners and committed just two unforced errors against Isner during their one hour match at RAC Arena.

“I think I played great,” said Medvedev after his second straight win in Perth. “To beat John with such score is a really great achievement. I knew before the match I just had to try return as much as possible. It worked out well. On my serve, I had only one tight game, missed some first serves. If not, I think the match was under my control. So, I’m really happy for the team that we got the important win.”

And how was it for Isner to get out-aced by Medvedev, especially after hitting 33 aces two days ago against Casper Ruud of Norway during a three-set loss?

“I got my ass kicked out there,” Isner said, matter-of-factly, after losing to Medvedev in their first career meeting. “He did what he does well, which is make a lot of balls. That’s kind of how he was playing last year. I wasn’t even close tonight. Generally, with my game, I can keep matches close and make it depend on a few points here or there, but that wasn’t the case tonight. … I didn’t quite serve as well as I needed to, there’s not doubt. I can certainly serve better.”

Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek gave the United States its only point of the tie with a 6-3, 6-4 win in doubles over Khachanov and Medvedev in 67 minutes.

Great Britain rallies over Belgium in Sydney

In Sydney, while Belgium hoped to build upon its success achieved from easily beating Moldova on Friday, Great Britain had other ideas. With their tie even at 1-1, Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury defeated Sander Gille and Jordan Vliegen, 6-3, 7-6 (7), in one hour and 32 minutes to clinch Great Britain’s 2-1 win against Belgium in Group C play at Ken Rosewall Arena.

The British rebounded after Belgian captain Steve Darcis, ranked No. 157, upset No. 53 Cameron Norrie in the opening singles rubber, 6-2, 6-4. However, Daniel Evans of Great Britain leveled the tie with his 6-4, 6-4 defeat of World No. 11 David Goffin to set up the decider in doubles.

“I felt the level was good out there,” said the 42nd-ranked Evans, who broke Goffin five times during their one hour and 48 minute match. “I’d say one of the highest levels I’ve played. It felt that way, and obviously it made it pretty sweet to have everyone there behind. And in this new format, I think it’s a pretty good way to play having the seats behind in the corners. It’s pretty cool. It definitely helped to get me through the match.”

Murray applauded Evans’ effort. “Evo played an amazing match today,” he said of his 29-year-old teammate. “Me, personally, I don’t know how Joe felt, but I was, like, ‘I cannot let that side.’ We had another chance at it to win a tie, and we can’t let it go again. We’ve got to win that match and make his performance count for something.”

Murray and Salisbury did not face any break points and they put away Gille and Vliegen on their third match-point opportunity.