INNSBRUCK/STARNBERG, November 23, 2021
Team Austria is getting ready for the 2021 Davis Cup Finals by Rakuten. On Monday evening, the squad of captain Stefan Koubek held a three-hour-long practice session on Center Court of the Olympiahalle in Innsbruck.
Alongside Dennis Novak and Jurij Rodionov, as well as doubles specialists Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald, Gerald Melzer was present. The 31-year-old could play his first Davis Cup tie since February 2018, when Austria beat Belarus in St. Pölten 5-0.
“It means a lot to me to get to hear our national anthem again. When the season started, I never would have thought that I’d be in this situation,” World No. 287 Melzer, who accomplished a stunning comeback by winning the ATP Challenger Tour tournament in Bogota, Colombia last month after a long injury break.
“Naturally, it hurts even more that we have to play behind locked doors now.” The practice sessions showed that Melzer quite obviously is enjoying himself again on the court. “It’s a lot of fun to play and win matches again – luckily free of pain. I’ve been playing very solid in South America, fought great – just like I used to do. But how I play in matches is still not the same level I show as during practice. So, there’s still enough room for improvement,” said Melzer.
Melzer quite likes the conditions inside the Olympiahalle: “It’s no secret that indoor hard court is not my favorite surface, but the conditions here are quite slow, the balls bounce high – so it’s exactly the way I like it.”
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) November 22, 2021
Novak has similar impressions from the Center Court: “The court is fair and more on the slower side of things, the bounce is high,” said Novak but also mourned the missing Davis Cup atmosphere, as no spectators will be allowed in Innsbruck due to the ongoing pandemic:
“The arena is great. It’s a pity that we can’t have an audience. But we have to deal with things as they come. We have been looking forward to this week for 1.5 years – so now we’ll give our all,” the World No. 114 promised.
Koubek described the court as “very comfortable”. He doesn’t want to think about having to play behind closed doors anymore: “Of course, we’ve been looking forward to playing our matches in front of a big crowd. We would have had home advantage – which isn’t self-evident with the new tournament mode. But it’s no use to moan, instead we have to look forward. In the days to come we will also analyze our opponents during their trainings,” Koubek concluded.
Austria will face Serbia on Thursday followed by their second Group F tie on Sunday against Germany.