Davis Cup: Gerasimov levels Belarus against Germany

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

On the first day of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Qualifiers, six teams – Italy, Ecuador, Czech Republic, Croatia, Australia and the United States – jumped out to 2-0 leads with each team needing to win just one more rubber to punch their ticket for the November Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.

On Friday, World No. 34 Jan-Lennard Struff put host Germany on the board first with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 138 Ilya Ivashka at Castello Düsseldorf in Düsseldorf, Germany, in one hour and 19 minutes. However, Belarus leveled the Davis Cup Qualifiers tie when 68th-ranked Egor Gerasimov fired 20 aces to beat No. 73 Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second rubber, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), to improve his Davis Cup win-loss record in singles to 18-6. Kohlschreiber was appearing in his 23rd Davis Cup tie.

Struff hit 18 aces and 19 winners in his victory over Ivaskha. He outpointed his opponent 67-57. Later, Gerasimov, 27, came on strong and outpointed the 36-year-old Kohlschreiber 120-112. He hit 31 winners and took advantage of the German veteran’s 35 unforced errors.

“I just tried to go for every point, tried to come back after the first set and tried to go for my serve and win games on my serve and that was the key (to winning the match),” said Gerasimov, quoted by DavisCup.com.

“I was thinking just to concentrate on every point, just not looking at the crowd, just focus on every point.”

On Saturday, Germany will send reigning French Open doubles champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies against Gerasimov and Andrei Vasilevski in the doubles rubber. It will be followed by the reverse singles rubbers beginning with Struff against Gerasimov.

German captain Michael Kohlmann expressed confidence in his doubles pairing. “I think that they showed in (the Madrid Finals) that they are ready to play for their country, they got us two important points there so I’m very confident they’ll give us a lead again tomorrow.”

Around the Davis Cup Qualifiers

Ecuador 2, Japan 0 – Wins by Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz, the second coming on a third-set 10-8 tie-break, gave visiting Ecuador a 2-0 lead at Miki, Japan. Quiroz, ranked No. 276, beat No. 90 Yasutaka Uchiyama, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-6 (8). The tie is being played behind closed doors in an attempt to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in Japan.

“It’s a relief. The third set was like a roller coaster,” said Quiroz, as quoted by DavisCup.com. “I had so many chances and couldn’t take advantage, but I think my mental game proved up to it.

“I was focusing on my serve, my teammates and my coach, not even looking at the score – sometimes I even had to ask them what the score was – I was just playing point by point. I’m really proud of the way I held myself together and got the second point for my country.”

Gomez began the tie with a 7-5, 7-6 (3) win over Go Soeda.

“Go and Yasutaka … didn’t play badly but today the Ecuador players were just a little bit better,” said Japan captain Satoshi Iwabuchi, who said he might rethink his country’s singles lineup if the tie is still live after doubles.

Australia 2, Brazil 0John Millman and Jordan Thompson, fill-ins for injured Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur, lifted the host Aussies to a 2-0 lead at Adelaide. Thompson opened with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Thiago Monteiro and Millman followed it with a comeback 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2 win against 19-year-old Thiago Seyboth Wild.

“That’s going to go down as a great Davis Cup victory,” said Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt.

Croatia 2, India 0 – Host Croatia took command of its tie behind wins by Borna Gojo and Marin Cilic in Zagreb. First, Gojo defeated Prajnesh Gunneswaran, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Then, Cilic in his first Davis Cup appearance since Croatia won it all in 2018, handled Ramkumar Ramanathan, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (8), by hitting 18 aces.

“This has to be the biggest win of my career because I always get extra motivation when I put on my Croatia shirt and the fans were unbelievable today,” said Gojo, 22, from Split. “They put some wind in my sails and helped me turn things around.”

Czech Republic 2, Slovakia 0 – The visitor Czechs took  a 2-0 lead on the strength of wins by Jiri Vesely and Lukas Rosol. Both won their rubbers in straight sets at Bratislava.

“I didn’t want to give him time on his shots, he’s better at that game than me – slicing, drop shots, coming to the net. I didn’t want to play chess with him,” said Rosol after his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Andrej Martin that followed Vesely’s 6-3, 7-5 win against Jozef Kovalik. “I just wanted to attack the first ball I could and finish it on the volleys which was always my game at my strongest.”

Belgium 1, Hungary 1 – Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans opened with a three-set win over Attila Balazs before Marton Fucsovics evened the tie for the hosts with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 win over Kimmer Coppejans at Drebecen.

Italy 2, South Korea 0Fabio Fognini needed just 64 minutes to defeat Duckhee Lee, 6-0, 6-3, on outdoor clay in Cagliari to give the host Italians a 1-0 lead. Then, Gianluca Mager made it 2-0 for the Italians with his 6-3, 7-5 win against Ji Sung Nam. This weekend’s tie is being played without spectators at Circolo Tennis Cagliari due to the coronavirus concerns in Italy.

“Conditions were strange,” Fognini said. “I guess I am the first in Italy to play a Davis Cup match in these conditions. It was not difficult to focus, but it was a bit strange to play in front of 100 people. But safety first and then sport. I’m happy, the first point is very important.”

Netherlands 1, Kazakhstan 1 Robin Haase, ranked 169th, gave Netherlands a 1-0 lead at Nur-Sultan with a 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 win over No. 91 Mikhail Kukushkin in two hours and 28 minutes. It was Haase’s 30th Davis Cup victory, becoming the second Dutch player to reach 30 wins after Hendrik Timmer, who won 32 over a 13-year career. However, the Dutch lead was short-lived as No. 51 Alexander Bublik leveled the tie with a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) win over No. 196 Tallon Griekspoor.

Austria 1, Uruguay 1Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay drew the visitors even as he defeated Jurij Rodionov, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 7-6 (5) in two hours and 49 minutes. It followed Austria’s opening rubber win by Dennis Novak over Martin Cuevas, 6-2, 6-4.

Sweden 1, Chile 1 – Mikael Ymer provided host Sweden with a 1-0 lead over Chile as he bested Chile’s Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera, 6-2, 6-3. However, Ymer’s younger brother, Elias Ymer, lost the second rubber against Alejandro Tabilo, 6-4, 6-3.

Colombia 1, Argentina 1 – In the second meeting in as many years between Colombia and Argentina, an intriguing factor to this tie is the 2,640-meter altitude in which the tie is being played in the Colombian capital of Bogotá. Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Londero came back from a set down on his Davis Cup debut to defeat Santiago Giraldo of Colombia, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-2, and level the score 1-1. Earlier, Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia beat Leonardo Mayer from Argentina, 6-1, 6-4, in the first rubber.

On Saturday, the tie continues with the doubles showdown between Colombia’s World No. 1 team of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah against World No. 4 Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos.

United States 2, Uzbekistan 0 – The U.S. and Uzbekistan have only played once before in the Davis Cup, back in 2015. On Friday evening on an indoor hard court in Honolulu, Hawaii, American No. 2 Reilly Opelka defeated Uzbekistan No. 1 Denis Istomin, 6-2, 7-5, in one hour and 21 minutes for his first career Davis Cup victory. The No. 38 Opelka hit 10 aces and 22 winners against the No. 156 Istomin, who committed 23 unforced errors. In the second rubber, 24th-ranked Taylor Fritz, the American No. 1, easily beat No. 498 Sanjar Fayziev, 6-2, 6-1, in 65 minutes.

Opelka is coming off his second career ATP title two weeks ago in Delray Beach, which lifted him into the Top 40, while Fritz was a finalist last weekend in Acapulco, losing to Rafael Nadal.

“I played really well,” Opelka said during an on-court interview after his win. “I knew that it was going to be a tough match. I wanted to get us up 1-0.”

After Fritz’s win, U.S. captain Mardy Fish said, “These guys played great today. First match was really impressive by Reilly. And Taylor, not knowing too much about his opponent, came out and played pretty impressive tennis. These guys keep getting better and better every time I see them live, and they’re building something special as far as the team is concerned.”

Next, the Americans look to Bob and Mike Bryan, who will play their last Davis Cup match on Saturday against Istomin and Fayziev for a chance to book the American’s trip to the Davis Cup Finals. The Bryans are the United States’ winningest Davis Cup doubles team with a 24-5 lifetime record.