SYDNEY, January 7, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)
The night session on day five at the inaugural ATP Cup was headlined by the dramatic match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios.
World No. 48 John Millman and World No. 486 Michail Pervolarakis were forced to play in the first singles rubber between Australia and Greece.
It was a match, which seemed to be very clear on paper, but turned out to become a thriller in the end. After two hours and 27 minutes, the favored Australian managed to win the last point of the match and avoid a huge upset, prevailing 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(1). The match was dominated by holds of serve, with only three breaks in the entire match.
The probably most exciting and dramatic match of Tuesday’s night session took place between top-10 player Stefanos Tsitsipas and World No. 29 Nick Kyrgios, who replaced Aussie No. 1 singles player Alex De Minaur (abdominal strain).
After two hours and 34 minutes, Kyrgios emerged victorious, winning 7-6(7), 6-7(3), 7-6(5). Just four more points in total (120-116) from the 24-year-old Australian were enough to improve his ATP Head2Head series against the Greek to 2-0.
Tsitsipas, after losing the first-set tie-break, completely lost his mind and accidentally injured his father during a racket smash, which caused into a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. Out of anger at not converting one of his two break points at the beginning of the second set, the 21-year-old Greek smashed a ball and received a second code violation, therefore a point penalty. Despite the mental strain, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion was able to force a decider.
In the third-set tie-break, Kyrgios went for a full-risk second serve at 5/5, which worked out in his favor. Hereafter, the Australian produced a crashing backhand winner on his first match point to seal Australia’s third tie victory at the ATP Cup in front of a packed crowd in the Pat Rafter Arena. It was Nick Kyrgios’ 21st win over a Top 10 player.
That’s how you win an #ATPCup match 💥@NickKyrgios maintains his unbeaten record against Stefanos Tsitsipas def. the world No.6, 7-6(7) 6-7(3) 7-6(5) to win the tie for 🇦🇺 #TeamAustralia.#ATPCup | #Brisbane | #GREAUS pic.twitter.com/NW6w8up9WL
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 7, 2020
“I served really well in big moments but the atmosphere was awesome. We’re carrying some momentum going to Sydney. It could have been easy to take your foot off the gas today. I thought both the Greeks showed up and I think they really wanted to win this tie, but I was happy we both got it done today,” Kyrgios said during the post-match interview.
Finally, Chris Guccione and John Peers wrapped up a 6-3, 6-4 win over Markos Kalovelonis and Petros Tsitsipas to make it 3-0 against Greece.
In Group C, Belgium beat Bulgaria winning 2-1. Dimitar Kuzmanov and David Goffin clinched wins for their respective countries to split tie evenly ahead of the doubles rubber.
Steve Darcis and Kuzmanov opened proceedings on Ken Rosewall Arena.
Thirty-five year-old Darcis, who confirmed to retire from professional tennis after this year’s Australian Open, started his campaign at the ATP Cup with two wins over Alexander Cozbinov and Cameron Norrie. This time, however, he had to admit defeat to the Bulgarian underdog after an hour and 17 minutes, falling 0-6, 3-6.
From the beginning, 26-year-old Kuzmanov was visibly unimpressed by Darcis’ slice backhand, and, in addition, found good means of exerting pressure on his opponent and forcing him to hit an exuberantly high amount of errors. With his two victories at the ATP Cup, the current World No. 417 already managed to rise seventy spots in the ATP live-rankings.
“Since I came here, I’m learning every day on and off the court. As I experienced those emotions, those feelings, and had to deal with all the mental pressure two days ago, today I felt much more confident,” Kuzmanov said.
In the second match of the tie, Goffin and Grigor Dimitrov, both representing the No. 1 singles players of their country, were set to face each other for the tenth time on the ATP Tour. So far, Dimitrov has dominated their matches and only lost once to the World No. 11 from Belgium. This time, too, Dimitrov was initially on the winning road when he won a competitive first set, with lots of break opportunities for both players, by the score of 6-4.
After losing the first set, however, Goffin started to serve more solidly, found the lines with brilliant returns to break Dimitrov’s serve three times in a row, and eventually went on winning the second set. Goffin kept dominating the rallies from the baseline as well in the third set. After two hours and 28 minutes, the Belgian came out victor, winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, most notably also due to the excessive amount of unforced errors by his opponent, who was barely finding any rhythm on his strokes throughout the whole match.
By winning, 29-year-old Goffin forced a decisive doubles match and maintained the chance for his country to qualify for the final eight at the ATP Cup.
Dimitrov was back on court just half an hour later to team up with Alexandar Lazarov in the deciding doubles rubber. In the end, however, Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen from Belgium prevailed over the Bulgarian duo by the tight score of 3-6, 6-4, [10-7].
With the victory of Belgium, Great Britain qualified for the final eight as the winner of group C. Team Belgium still has the possibility of advancing into the quarterfinals as one of the best two second-placed teams.
🚨 BREAKING 🚨
As a result of 🇧🇪 #TeamBelgium‘s victory against 🇧🇬 #TeamBulgaria, 🇬🇧 #TeamGreatBritain finishes top of Group C and qualifies for the Final 8️⃣ in #Sydney where they will meet 🇦🇺 #TeamAustralia.#ATPCup pic.twitter.com/OzcKocj5Oi
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 7, 2020
“I think we’re going to try to practise like we have to play on Thursday. We have a chance, but of course we’re going to check all the results,” Goffin said. “What can we do? Just praying and hoping that we’re going to go through with this, because I think we have a good chance. Anyway, we did our best, so we’ll see what’s going to happen, but we need to stay in the competition and we need to try to focus like we are still in.”
Stefano Travaglia and Fabio Fognini gave Italy an unassailable 2-0 lead against team United States in Group D.
Travaglia hit 17 aces and won 94 per-cent (44/47) first serve points on his way to a 7-6(3), 7-6(1) victory over World No. 31 Taylor Fritz. The 28-year-old Italian didn’t hit a double fault and struck 43 winners. It was Travaglia’s fourth victory over a Top-50 opponent.
“I was feeling good from the beginning,” said Travaglia. “I was feeling good with the return first and with my serve too – better than in the past two matches. I think I adapted very well in these conditions in the evening, no wind, no heat and it was slower. The courts were slower than the practice court… I think it is my best result of maybe the past two years. I’m very happy of this result.”
Next up on Rac Arena was the match between World No. 12 Fognini and World No. 19 John Isner. Both were still looking for their maiden victory at the ATP Cup. Just four weeks ago, they met at the Diriyah Tennis Cup Exhibition in Saudi-Arabia during the pre-season, where Fognini emerged as the victor in straight sets.
This result should also not change almost a month later, Fognini gained the upper hand and beat his 34-year-old American opponent by the score of 6-4, 7-6(5) after 90 minutes.
During the first set, the Italian, very surprisingly, managed to hit more aces (5) than Isner (4).
In the doubles rubber, Fognini was back on court with Simone Bolelli on his side. The 2015 Australian Open doubles champions managed to beat Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram 6-4, 6-7(5), [10-3] to complete a 3-0 victory for Italy.
Despite a perfect day at work, team Italy could not qualify for the quarterfinals as one of the two best second-placed teams.