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Davis Cup Round-Up: Friday Outside the USA

Jan 31st 2014

While a columnist on-site in San Diego focuses on the Davis Cup battle between Great Britain and Team USA, this roundup keeps you up to date with the seven other ties unfolding around the world as the singles rubbers on Friday came to a close.  Four ties ended with one nation in control, while three others stood deadlocked before Saturday’s doubles.

Tomas Berdych

Czech Republic 1, Netherlands 1:  The defending champions looked set to blow out an overmatched Dutch team, but that is not how the script has unfolded so far.  An inspired five-set comeback from Robin Haase over Radek Stepanek assured that the intrigue will last until Sunday, no matter the outcome of the doubles.  Haase fell behind Stepanek two sets to one after losing a third-set tiebreak before losing just three games in the last two sets.  Unruffled by that surprise twist, Czech superstar Tomas Berdych built on his outstanding Australian Open form by brushing aside Igor Sijsling for the loss of six games across three sets.  Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil likely will substitute Berdych and Stepanek for the doubles rubber.

Germany 2, Spain 0:  A former Davis Cup juggernaut, Spain lacked the services of its two top-five men in Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.  Germany fielded its top team, by contrast, and reaped the rewards.  Despite his second-week run at the Australian Open, Davis Cup novice Roberto Bautista Agut fell routinely to Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.  A much more eventful plot unfolded when Florian Mayer squared off against fast-court specialist Feliciano Lopez.  Always unpredictable, Mayer eked out two tiebreaks to claim a vast lead—that he proceeded to squander.  Lopez brought all of the momentum into a final set as a comeback loomed that could have turned the tie around.  To his credit, however, Mayer collected himself to slam the door and put Spain’s Cup hopes on life support.

Japan 1, Canada 1:  Injuries to both of its top two singles players, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, forced Canada to press Dancevic and Peter Polansky into singles duty.  Still, Japan is essentially a one-man squad consisting of top-20 man Kei Nishikori and assorted journeymen.  Nishikori did his job in the opening rubber by dispatching Polansky in a straight-setter less convincing than the score looked.  Canada desperately needed the second rubber, pitting Dancevic against Japanese No. 2 Go Soeda, to preserve its slim hopes of survival.  The pressure was on Dancevic, then, but he delivered with a straight-sets victory of his own to level the tie heading into Saturday’s doubles rubber.  In that match, the presence of legendary doubles specialist Daniel Nestor should give Canada the chance to take a 2-1 lead over the hosts.

France 2, Australia 0:  No real surprise here as an all-star French team dismissed the faded Lleyton Hewitt and the raw Nick Kyrgios without dropping a set.  Kyrgios and Hewitt each forced a tiebreak against Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, respectively, but the talent gap separating the Aussies from those two top-10 men yawned too wide to overcome.  Australia should see this tie as a baptism of fire that starts building Kyrgios into a Davis Cup stalwart, and Hewitt’s veteran presence should aid that goal.  France, however, can start eyeing a Battle of the Rhine against Germany in the quarterfinals.

Argentina 1, Italy 1:  One of the weekend’s more intriguing ties overall failed to produce intriguing singles rubbers on the first day.  Each of the singles No. 1s prevailed uneventfully, although Carlos Berlocq needed to rally from losing the first set to Andreas Seppi.  The higher-ranked man, Seppi completely disappeared over the next three sets as he won only three games.  An uncharacteristically disciplined Fabio Fognini leveled the tie with a straight-sets victory over Juan Monaco.  The energetic Argentine crowd thus played less of a role in the tie so far than their team might have hoped. 

Kazakhstan 2, Belgium 0: This tie involved only two top-100 singles players, both of them Kazakh.  The hosts took full advantage on the opening day, when Mikhail Kukushkin weathered a mid-match surge from Ruben Bemelmans in the first rubber.  After the two men each seized a set, Kukushkin reeled off the next two sets for the loss of just five games.  Belgian No. 1 David Goffin then found himself in the same position that Dancevic had in Japan, needing to defeat opposing No. 2 Andrey Golubev to prevent Belgium from slipping into a 0-2 hole.  Golubev might be most famous (or infamous) for a 15-match losing streak that he endured in 2011.  But he found the courage to weather plenty of adversity against Goffin across the four hours and 38 minutes of their epic.  Saving match points in the final set, Golubev shrugged off a squandered lead late in that set to secure victory in its 22nd game.

Stanislas Wawrinka

Switzerland 2, Serbia 0:  Playing as the Swiss No. 1 for the first time, Stanislas Wawrinka wobbled through much of his first match after winning the Australian Open.  Wawrinka dropped a set to world No. 117 Dusan Lajovic and avoided a fifth set by the narrowest of margins.  By contrast, Roger Federer eased past Ilja Bozoljac more comfortably than he had on the grass of Wimbledon a few years ago.  This tie was essentially a foregone conclusion from the outset with Novak Djokovic absent from the Serbian squad and Switzerland wielding its full arsenal. 

Check back later today for a report on Team USA’s tie in San Diego by our on-site writer!