Davis Cup: Behind Closed Doors, Italy Gets Job Done

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Italy went with experience over youth during its Davis Cup by Rakuten Qualifiers doubles rubber against South Korea behind closed doors at Circolo Tennis Cagliari on Saturday. Leading 2-0 after the first day, the Italians knew that with a victory in the doubles rubber, they would clinch their tie and advance to November’s Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.

Instead of giving Lorenzo Sonego and Stefanos Travaglia their Davis Cup debut in what was considered a pressure-free atmosphere – playing without any spectators in accordance with measures set forth by the Italian government due to the ongoing coronavirus concerns – Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti, instead, anointed Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli to play the pivotal doubles rubber. They won 6-3, 6-1 over Ji Sung Naim and Min-Kyu Song to clinch the tie for the Italians. A dead singles rubber was won by Travaglia for the final 4-0 outcome.

Fognini was asked it was like to play in front of no fans in Cagliari. “The atmosphere was unique, but the first goal was to qualify for Madrid,” he said, quoted by DavisCup.com. “Now, we are there. When you play for your float, when you play for your country, it’s always a different feeling. But the first goal is done.”

Barazzutti said Italy played with respect for its opponent, which is why he opted to go with his more experienced doubles pair. “Matches are always tough in Davis Cup, but we wanted to play focused. We didn’t want to take any risks. 

“We are very happy to qualify. We’ll try to go again, for a second time in Madrid. The prize that I promised – to win for the people who are not here – we caught it. I’m very happy for us, for Italy.”

Around the Davis Cup Qualifiers

• United States 4, Uzbekistan 0 – The United States has won the Davis Cup 32 times in the storied history of the competition. However, the Americans have been shut out since 2007. As the U.S. entered the second day of its tie against Uzbekistan in Honolulu, Hawaii, it needed to capture just one of the final three rubbers to win the tie and punch their ticket for Madrid – and Team USA got it on its first try.

With a 2-0 lead, the Americans looked to future Hall of Famers Bob and Mike Bryan, who were playing their last Davis Cup match for Team USA in their storied career. The twin brothers, who played on the 2007 U.S. team that lifted the Davis Cup trophy, triumphed over Denis Istomin and Sanjar Fayziev, 6-3, 6-4, in 67 minutes. With their victory, it booked the American’s trip back to the Davis Cup Finals.

The Bryans are the United States’ winningest Davis Cup doubles team with a 25-5 lifetime record, and in their final appearance on a Davis Cup stage before they retire later this year, they played loose and relaxed – seemed to have a lot of fun – and they won most of the important points. Together, they hit 30 winners and broke their opponents three times. And, by the end of the match, they treated everyone to one of their iconic chest bumps. It all added up to vintage Bryan Brothers.

“It’s our last hurrah, but no better place than to play at home with a great team that we love, playing for captain Mardy,” said Mike Bryan during an on-court interview. “It’s been a lot of fun this week being with guys half our age.

“We’ve played some of the most important matches of our lives” in Davis Cup,” said Bob Bryan. “We always felt like the Davis Cup crowds could carry us – we played some great tennis. These are the matches we’ll remember … sometimes, the losses more than the wins because we (felt like) we let down our team. (But) today was a great way to end this part of our career.”

Following an on-court celebration, in which each of the American Davis Cup team members took turns carrying the American flag on a victory lap around the perimeter of the tennis court, Tommy Paul defeated Istomin 6-3, 6-0 in a dead singles rubber for his first Davis Cup victory.

• Ecuador 3, Japan 0Gonzalo Escobar and Diego Hidalgo clinched Ecuador’s tie against Japan with a 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama. Due to coronavirus concerns, the tie was played with no spectators inside the Bourbon Beans Dome in Miki, near Kobe, Japan. The reverse singles rubbers were not played.

These guys work very hard and are very committed to Davis Cup and representing their country,” said Ecuador captain Raul Viver. “So, I’m so happy for them. I know the effort they put into their tennis, and sometimes with not much financial support.”

Hidalgo said he thought the situation of playing with no fans helped his team. “It was weird, different, to play in a stadium without spectators, and I think it evened up the tie.”

Japan competed without injured World No. 31 Kei Nishikori, who has been idle since last year’s US Open, and World No. 48 Yoshihito Nishioka, who did not fly to Japan from the United States fearing he might not be able to return as the U.S. looks to tightened entry requirements due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.

• Australia 3, Brazil 1 – After Australia clinched its tie against Brazil and advanced to Madrid, captain Lleyton Hewitt described his team’s victory as “an epic Davis Cup encounter.” He admitted that the outcome could have gone to the Aussie’s opponents.

Ahead 2-0 after the first day of the tie in Adelaide, Brazil came back to win the doubles rubber as Marcelo Demoliner and Felipe Meligeni Alves beat James Duckworth and John Peers, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (6), to send the tie to a fourth rubber pitting the No. 1 singles players from each nation, John Millman of Australia and Thiago Monteiro for Brazil. It took three hours and five minutes to decide the outcome, but it was Millman who won 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) that clinched the tie for the Aussies.

“It was something pretty special this weekend and I enjoyed every second of it,” said Millman after his victory. “It was so much fun, emotional roller-coaster, and so happy to get through and do it with these boys.”

• Kazakhstan 3, Netherlands 1 Alexander Bublik lifted Kazakhstan into the Davis Cup Finals for the second straight year with a 7-6 (4), 6-1 win over Robin Haase that came after the host nation won the doubles rubber to break a 1-1 tie after the first day at Nur-Sultan.

Bublik’s win against Haase was a rematch of last year’s Madrid Finals in which the Dutch No. 1 won. Bublik has now won four of the five Davis Cup singles matches he’s played in.

“That was a very difficult match between our team and Netherlands,” Kazakh captain Yuriy Schukin said. “We knew it was not going to be easy. Netherlands are a very strong and very experienced team, and after the first day we didn’t know what to expect.”

• Germany 4, Belarus 1 – Jan-Lennard Struff needed just 58 minutes triumph over Egor Gerasimov, 6-3, 6-2, which clinched host Germany’s tie against Belarus at Castello Düsseldorf before 3,000 fans and advanced the Germans to Madrid. The World No. 34 fired 12 aces and hit 16 winners, and he converted four of nine break points against Gerasimov.

When Struff was asked how he felt about qualifying for the Davis Cup Finals, he told DavisCup.com: “Very happy. … We as a team work so intense together and we had so much fun (in Madrid last year) and it was so tough that we lost in the quarterfinal and we had the feeling that we can go deeper. I’m very happy to be part of this team. So, hope we can do really well there.”

Earlier, reigning French Open champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies won their doubles rubber over Ilya Ivashka and Andrei Vasilevski, 6-4, 7-6 (5) to give Germany a 2-1 lead to set up the Struff-Gerasimov rubber.

Then, after Germany clinched the tie, Dominik Koepfer defeated Daniil Ostapenkov, 6-0, 6-2, in a dead singles rubber for the final margin of victory.

• Sweden 3, Chile 1 – The Swedes have now won eight of its last nine Davis Cup ties. Tied 1-1 after Friday, Sweden’s Markus Ericsson and Robert Lindstedt won the pivotal doubles rubber, 6-4, 6-4, over Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo inside Royal Tennis Hall in Stockholm.

“Without (Nicolas) Jarry and (Christian) Garin, we knew the doubles was going to be a key match,” said Lindstedt, 42. “Experience helped because I’ve been in this situation many times. So, it helps if you have the ability to play well. Today I felt I had Venus, Jupiter and Mars in line for me. When you play matches like this one, it makes the decision of retiring very hard.”

Ahead 2-1, it was up to Mikael Ymer of Sweden and he came through, securing the winning point with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Alejandro Tabilo in two hours and five minutes to advance Sweden to Madrid. He fought off a match point at in the 10th game of the middle set to keep Sweden’s hopes alive.

• Austria 3, Uruguay 1 – Austria rallied for a pair of wins against Uruguay in the Graz’s Steiermark Halle to earn their spot in Madrid. First, in the doubles rubber, Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer, who was appearing in his record-extending 39th Davis Cup tie, put the Austrians ahead 2-1 by coming back for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Ariel Behar and Pablo Cuevas. Then, No. 85 Dennis Novak clinched the tie by beating Cuevas, who was appearing in his third rubber of the weekend, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“My emotions after the match were unbelievable,” said Novak, who closed out the tie-clinching victory with a forehand winner.

“It’s an unforgettable moment for me and the team. Of course any nation would miss not having somone like Dominic (Thiem), but we dealt with it and did it really good.”

• Croatia 3, India 1 Marin Cilic beat Sumit Nagel, 6-0, 6-1, in just 56 minutes to clinch the 2018 Davis Cup champions’ place in the Madrid Finals. Trailing 2-0 after the first day, India won the doubles rubber behind Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna, who beat Mate Pavic and Franko Skugor, 6-3, 6-7 (9), 7-5. Then, it was up to Cilic to turn the tie in his nation’s favor. He came up big by serving eight aces and suffered no breaks of his serve en route to his victory. Cilic outpointed Nagel 52-21.

“It is a privilege being part of the Davis Cup team,” said Cilic, quoted by DavisCup.com. “We had an excellent week in training and the court was impeccably conditioned.

“I would have preferred of course for our doubles lads to have clinched it but I was focused and ready to step up to the plate.”

• Hungary 3, Belgium 2  – Marton Fucsovics lifted Hungary into the Davis Cup Finals with a 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Ruben Bemelmans that required two hours and 20 minutes to decide. As the second day began with the tie even at 1-1, Belgium won the doubles rubber behind Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen to go ahead 2-1. However, Hungary came back a pair of singles victories by Attilas Balazs and Fucsovics. Balazs beat Kimmer Coppejans, 6-3, 6-0. Then, it came down to the final set of the final rubber before Hungary prevailed behind Fucsovics, who hit 17 forehand winners and did not face any break points on his serve.

“I had a flight tomorrow to Indian Wells, but I’ve changed it because I want to celebrate with the team,” Fucsovics told DavisCup.com. “I want to enjoy these special moments with everyone, and then have an extra day with my family.”

• Czech Republic 3, Slovakia 1 – In Bratislava, Slovakia kept its hopes alive with a win in the doubles rubber as Philip Polasek and Igor Zelenay prevailed 6-4, 6-4 over Jonas Forejtek and Zdenek Kolar. It set up a showdown at No. 1 singles between Jiri Vesely and Andrej Martin – and Vesely came up huge for Czech Republic with a come-from-behind 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory that lasted two hours and 47 minutes.

Vesely overcame 61 unforced errors by hitting 35 winners and Martin committed 56 unforced errors. The Czechs became the 11th team to qualify for Madrid.

“It’s been a night to remember that’s for sure,” Vesely said, suggesting that it rated as the best night of his Davis Cup career. “It means so much to me.“

• Colombia 3, Argentina 1Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah gave Colombia a 2-1 lead in its tie with Argentina in Bogotá on red clay. The World No. 1 doubles team beat World No. 4 Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-5 in two hours and 28 minutes on an indoor clay surface. Then, the Colombians closed out the tie behind Daniel Elahi Galan, who beat Juan Ignacio Londero, 6-3, 6-4, to clinch their spot in Madrid.

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