Zverev, Struff Lift Germany Over U.S. At ATP Cup

Team Germany at the ATP Cup (photo: Steve Christo / Tennis Australia)

SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, January 4, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 3 Alexander Zverev won his second straight match of the young season and his stellar performance against Taylor Fritz, which resulted in a 6-4, 6-4 victory, lifted Germany to a 2-1 victory over the United States at the ATP Cup in Sydney on Tuesday.

After beating World No. 12 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain on Sunday, dropping just seven games, Zverev parlayed a pair of early breaks in each set against the No. 23 Fritz en route to his tie-clinching win.

Earlier, No. 51 Jan-Lennard Struff overcame 34 aces from No. 24 John Isner and pulled out a 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-5 win that gave Germany a 1-0 lead. Struff converted his third match point with a forehand winner after Isner had saved two match points and fought off seven break points during the two-hour and 44-minute match on Ken Rosewall Arena.

Later, Fritz and Isner won the dead doubles rubber over Germany’s Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz, 6-0, 6-3.

Germany’s win coupled with Canada’s defeat of Great Britain means all four Group C teams are tied 1-1 in the standings. Germany will face Canada while the U.S. plays Great Britain on Thursday with only one team advancing to the semifinal round.

“Yeah, I think great effort by Jan to start off,” Zverev said during Team Germany’s press conference. “I think we needed that win. We needed to get on the board, and it made my job easy, as well. If you’re up 1-0, it’s obviously much nicer to play, much nicer to be on the court. Credit to Jan, I think he played a fantastic match.”

After putting Germany ahead, during his on-court interview Struff said it’s always difficult to play Isner. However, he was satisfied to get the win for his team. “It’s always tough against John. I had played him five Times’s [four times at Tour-leve] before and lost five times. So, I’m very happy to get the win for my team today.

“It’s not just his own serve that makes it tough. You have to focus on your own serve because if you get broken it’s very tough to come back. I was very happy how I played and competed.”

Struff finished with 18 aces and won 86 percent (54 of 63) of his first-serve points. He also saved five of the six break points he faced against Isner and outpointed his American foe 123-110.

Later in press, Struff added: “For me personally it was very important, but more important was the win for Germany. And then, Sascha played a very good match again today. Very happy that, yeah, our team won, that we could get the win for Germany, and hope we gave ourself a chance to come to the semis.”

Russia dominant in 3-0 victory over Australia

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and Roman Safiullin clinched Russia’s tie against host Australia at Qudos Bank Arena Tuesday evening with back-to back singles victories, then paired in doubles to wrap up a 3-0 shutout over the Aussies. The triumph moved Russia to 2-0 in Group B play.

The 167th-ranked Safiullin began the tie with a 7-6 (6), 6-4 win over No. 49 James Duckworth that took nearly two hours. He struck 12 aces, converted four break points and outpointed his opponent 90-73.

Then, Medvedev won his fourth straight match over No. 34 Alex de Minaur of Australia, 6-4, 6-2, in 80 minutes. Medvedev outpointed de Minaur 67-42.

Finally, Medvedev and Safiullin completed the clean sweep against Australia with a 7-6 (7), 3-6, 10-6 victory over John Peers and Luke Saville in one hour and 43 minutes.

“It was a great match for me and the match before as well,” Safiullin said during his on-court interview. In his first match, he upset Arthur Rinderknech of France on Sunday. “This one I would say started more or less the same, but then [I was able to] come back n the first set. At the end, I could push James a bit more and managed to win.”

Later in his team’s press conference, Safiullin was asked how happy after garnering his second straight singles win as well as teaming with Medvedev to win their doubles rubber.

“I’m absolutely happy because, honestly, I didn’t expect – in the beginning, I knew that I’m going to come to ATP Cup, but I wasn’t expecting to play the ATP Cup, only like maybe doubles, but now I’m super happy that I could bring two points in single and help in doubles,” he said.

“We fight when we play for our country, to the last point,” said Medvedev. “I didn’t feel great prior to the match, so I took some painkillers before I came out. I’m really happy for Roman, he’s winning every match he’s played so far.”

Next, Russia (2-0) plays Italy (1-1) on Thursday in a rematch of the 2021 ATP Cup final, while winless Australia and France pair off. Both ties will be at Ken Rosewall Arena.

Berrettini, Sinner lead Italy sweep of France

After a disappointing loss to host Australia on Sunday, Italy turned things around Tuesday against France at Qudos Bank Arena. The Italians, in back of its pair of Top 10 talents – seventh-ranked Matteo Berrettini and No. 10 Jannik Sinner – beat the French 3-0 to improve to 1-1 in Group B play.

Berrettini clinched the tie victory for Italy with his 6-4, 7-6 (6) win against 35th-ranked Ugo Humbert, who two days earlier pulled off a three-set upset of World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. The Italian fired 18 aces, won 85 percent (39 of 46) of his first-serve points and faced no break points during his one-hour and 35-minute win. Berrettini outpointed Humbert 72-64.

“[It was] a really tough match, especially in these conditions,” Berrettini said after his win. “He’s a great server, a tricky player, lefty. I had to play my best tennis in the important moments to win the match. I’m really happy with my performance. I need to play matches as much as possible, so I’m happy.”

Earlier, Sinner gave his country a 1-0 lead after defeating No. 58 Arthur Rinderknech, 6-3, 7-6 (3), in an hour and 37 minutes after rallying from being down a break in the second set.

“It’s never easy playing against him, it was the third time already” Sinner said during his on-court interview. “The first set I was under control. In the second set, I dropped a little bit of intensity. He is serving very well, so I was in trouble. But fortunately, I found a way.”

In the dead doubles rubber, Berrettini and Sinner, playing together for the first time, defeated Fabrice Martin and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 10-8.

“We are both great singles players, but in doubles I think we both still have to improve,” Sinner admitted. “We enjoyed today, since today was the first one. Hopefully, the first of many.”

Comeback victory for Canada against Great Britain

World No. 11 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada backed up his singles victory over Great Britain’s 12th-ranked Cameron Norrie by teaming with Denis Shapovalov to beat Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury. His double-duty pair of triumphs lifted Canada to a 2-1 comeback victory over the British in Group C at Ken Rosewall Arena.

The outcome means that both Canada and Great Britain are both 1-1 going into the final day of group play on Thursday. Canada faces Germany (1-1) while Great Britain takes on the United States (1-1).

After World No. 25 Dan Evans began the tie with a 6-4, 6-4 win over the 14th-ranked Shapovalov, Canada faced elimination if Auger-Aliassime was unable to produce a winning performance against the British No. 1 Norrie. However, the 21-year-old Canadian came through with a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win. He overcame nine double faults by hitting eight aces and winning 85 percent. (34 of 40) first-serve points. Auger-Aliassime outpointed the winless Norrie 82-70.

“I am happy with the win,” said Auger-Aliassime during his on-court interview. He hit 18 winners during the opening set and finally prevailed during the tie-break on his eighth set point.

“Stepping onto court against a player like Cam, who plays really well, you try to find a way to win and the most important thing at the end of the day is the victory. I am happy to keep the team alive, but the work is not done.”

In the tie decider, Aliassime and Shapovalov beat Murray and Salisbury 6-4, 6-1 in 70 minutes, outpointing their British opponents 56-39, to wrap up the victory for Canada.

“It’s just a great win today,” Shapovalov said during his team’s press conference. “I’m just super happy, and obviously, I mean, it’s more credit to Felix. He had an unbelievable day. He took out a really tough player in singles. Came out in the doubles just on fire. Lifted my energy and my level up, as well. So, you know, I think it was just great from Felix.”

Looking back at Tuesday

Looking ahead to Wednesday

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

“Tennis is all about trying to find solutions and today I found it, fortunately. Obviously, we want to win, so we’ll try to stay focused.”

Jannik Sinner of Team Italy, following his 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over Arthur Rinderknech of France on Tuesday.