Team Depth Valuable For Argentina, Spain In Opening ATP Cup Wins

Diego Schwartz (photo: Dan Peled / Tennis Australia)

SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, January 1, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The first day of the 2022 ATP Cup in Sydney highlighted the importance of having team depth, a good one-two punch in singles. It proved valuable for both Argentina and Spain during their respective 3-0 victories against overmatched teams from Georgia and Chile on Saturday.

After Argentina’s Federico Delbonis earned a comprehensive 6-1, 6-2 victory over Aleksandre Metreveli at No. 2 singles in his ATP Cup debut, World No. 13 Diego Schwartzman clinched the tie for his team by defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili by an identical 6-1, 6-2 score. He needed just 62 minutes to beat the World No. 22 and did so by efficiently winning points (21 of 27) on his first serve, breaking his opponent five times and outpointing Basilashvili 58-30.

“I want to say Happy New Year for everyone who came and is watching,” a happy and smiling Schwartzman said during his on-court interview at Qudos Bank Arena. “It was a good start for me. I know [Nikoloz] because we are the same age (29), but we didn’t play [before]. It’s the first time, so I’m happy to beat him in this way. Obviously, I’m thinking about myself and I think my start and Federico’s start for our team, it was perfect.”

Argentina’s Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni wrapped up the dead doubles rubber with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Saba Purtseladze and Zura Tkemaladze for the final 3-0 margin of victory in the Group D opener.

Schwartzman was asked during Team Argentina’s press conference to describe what it meant to be representing his country so far away from home. He said: “For us, it’s very important. Obviously, everyone wants to be in home, you know, these days with the family, friends. But we know, every single player know that the year starts very quickly, very early. First day of the year we start playing.

“So, it’s very important to start very well, you know? It’s a team competition. Federico and me start very well. … I think the important thing right now it’s warming up for the Grand Slam, play as a team, and share the moments all together in this competition. For us to always play under the flags, it’s very nice.”

Baustisa Agut, Carreño Busta spark Spain’s triumph

Although they took different paths to victory, both Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreño Busta won in straight sets to clinch Spain’s tie against Chile at Ken Rosewall Arena. At No. 2 singles, Carreño Busta trailed Alejandro Tabilo by identical 3-0 margins in both sets but managed to pull out a 6-4, 7-6 (4) win. Then, in the No. 1 singles rubber, World No. 19 Bautista Agut was explosive against Cristian Garin and needed just 82 minutes to win 6-0, 6-3 to clinch the tie in Spain’s Group A opener.

“It’s always important to start the year with a victory,” Carreño Busta said. “I’m happy for the result.”

Bautista Agut won nine of the first 10 games in the No. 1 singles match against the World No. 17 Garin and never looked back. He finished with 20 winners and took advantage of his opponent’s 29 unforced errors. Bautista Agut controlled the net by winning points in eight of 10 opportunities and converted five of seven break points.

The dead doubles rubber was won by Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Pedro Martinez over Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 10-7, to give the Spaniards the sweep over Chile.

“Today was a good start for me,” Bautista Agut said during an on-court interview. “I played very solid and I’m very happy to get the win. I like the conditions and this court. Sydney is a great city, so it’s very good to start the year playing ATP Cup.”

Later, during Team Spain’s press conference, Bautista Agut said he was proud of his effort to start the season. “It was a great level, great level on the court today,” he said. “Well, I know Garin is [a] great opponent, he’s a good player. I knew he was going to fight hard at the end of the match.”

Krajinovic earns both points for Serbia

Filip Krajinovic had a hand in both of Serbia‘s points during their 2-1 Group A victory over Norway Saturday evening at Ken Rosewall Arena. With the tie level at 1-all, the World No. 42 Krajinovic teamed with Nikola Cacic to beat Casper Ruud and Viktor Durasovic, 7-6 (3), 6-3, in the decisive doubles rubber that took 86 minutes to decide the outcome.

“It was an amazing point at the end,” Krajinovic said during his on-court interview. Thank you for watching and thank you for Nikola for playing with me. We are very happy to win today. It is a very good start. We are happy we won and we came here and we are going to give our best.”

Added Cacic: “We have known each other for a long time, since we were kids and it was a lot of fun to play together today. I want to thank Filip for playing with me and everyone who stayed to support us.”

Cacic was asked to describe what was going through his mind during match point. He said: “Please win this point. … Don’t lose this point.

“When the point starts, I knew I had to be good in the rally, and I stayed. He was trying to help me on the net. On the end, I just fight for the point, you know. Somehow, we won the point.”

Krajinovic began the tie with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Durasovic. Ahead a set and a break, the Serbian lost three straight games before regrouping. He converted four break points and won 79 percent (27 of 34) of his first-serve points to secure his first win of the season.

Then, in the No. 1 singles match, World No. 8 Ruud, a five-time winner on the ATP Tour last season, put Norway on the scoreboard with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 33 Dusan Lajovic, who was thrusted into the spotlight for Serbia in the absence of Novak Djokovic, who withdrew from the ATP Cup on Wednesday.

“It is not easy to play for Serbia without Djokovic,” Krajinovic said. “The expectations are very big. Whatever you do is not enough because he is No. 1 and the greatest of all time. I am sure he is watching us now and cheering for us.”

Hurkacz, Majchrzak pace Poland over Greece

Hubert Hurkacz and Kamil Majchrzak of Poland scored singles wins over their opponents from Greece to win in Group D play Saturday evening at Qudos Bank Arena.

World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas was a late scratch against Hurkacz, sidelined by a right elbow injury. However, Hurkacz adapted quickly against 20-year-old Aristotelis Thanos and won 6-1, 6-2 in back of 10 winners to clinch the tie for Poland.

“Obviously, coming into the new season it’s always you’re wondering how you’re going to play the first matches and, yeah, I mean we’ll see,” Hurkacz said during his team’s press conference.

The 117th-ranked Majchrzak began with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Michail Pervolarakis in 79 minutes. “It was a very nice feeling to bring the first point for Poland and win my first match of the year,” he said.

Later, Tsitsipas resurfaced to play doubles with Pervolarakis and they gave Greece its only point in the tie with a 6-4, 5-7, 10-8 win over Hurkacz and Jan Zielinski in 90 minutes.

“To win [the tie], that’s what we came in for today,” Hurkacz said. “I mean, unfortunately, we didn’t close it in doubles, but it was a good match from our side. We got a bit unlucky and I think we can play better the next ones.”

Tsitsipas was asked about his elbow during his team’s press conference. He said: “I’ve been using some muscles that I haven’t been able to use before and it takes a little bit of time to get into the rhythm and to get to the level I want to. If I’m not able to perform at 100 percent for me, there’s no reason for me to go out there and play.

“I don’t regret any of my decisions,” he explained. “There was a lot of thought behind it and it kind of hurts because I do want the best for the team. I’m not thinking only, I’m not playing as an individual. I see that as a team effort and I would love to go out there on the court today and play my best tennis, but I decided to take it a bit easier with the doubles, by starting with the doubles.”

By the numbers

With his victory Saturday, Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain is 8-2 in ATP Cup play – including 6-0 at No. 2 singles in 2020.

“Quotable …”

“At the end of the match, it was very, very warm, and I felt the difference between the winter in Spain, now the summer here in Australia.”

Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain describing the change of climate between home and Australia following his opening-day victory.

Looking back at Saturday

Looking ahead to Sunday

Canada faces the United States during the day session on Ken Rosewall Arena in a key Group C tie. The No. 1 singles rubber will pair World No. 11 Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is also serving as his team’s captain, against World No. 23 Taylor Fritz, while the No. 2 singles rubber that begins the tie matches up World No. 14 Denis Shapovalov and No. 24 John Isner.