Tennis - Davis Cup Review
The USA were the first team to progress to the quarter finals of the Davis Cup in the early hours of Sunday morning in Melbourne against Australia. John Isner was their talisman winning both of his singles rubbers, including the crucial decider against Tomic in four sets. At 6ft 10” Isner has one of the most potent serves on the ATP Tour and he dished out a serving master class against Tomic, which included 49 aces.
This was the USA’s first Davis Cup win against Australia in their back yard since 1982 and the first time they have reached the quarter final stage since 2013 after being knocked in the first round the last two years. The win earns them a crucial home tie for the quarter finals and they will face Croatia, who edged past 2015 finalist Belgium 3-2 in Liege yesterday.
Andy Murray faced his toughest Davis Cup test to date against world number six Kei Nishikori yesterday and produced one his most heroic performances to win a five set epic that lasted nearly five hours. Murray looked on for another comfortable win against his Japanese opponent when he took two sets to love lead, but it was far from plain sailing after this as Murray’s renowned physical reserves deserted him over the next two sets and Nishikori raced through the next two sets to level the match.
Both players were physically drained at the start of the fifth and the tension was palpable, especially when Nishikori struck the first blow breaking Murray for a 1-0 lead. GB Captain Leon Smith looked extremely uncomfortable and a bit lost when Murray returned to the chair for the changeover as the Scot was seriously rattled after dropping his serve again.
This setback spurred Murray on, however, and he reeled off the next three games to take a 3-1 lead, but again Nishikori fought back for the fifth beak of serve in the set. Murray had the benefit of serving first in the final set and at 3-2 on serve he broke Nishikori for the third time in the set for a 4-2 lead. This was the decisive moment in the match and, with Nishikori tiring, Murray finally held serve for a 5-2 lead and served out at the first time of asking to land the match and the tie for team GB.
Davis Cup favourites Serbia had to endure a tough weekend and fight tooth and nail to make the quarter finals against Kazakhstan in Belgrade. The visitors went in to Sunday’s deciding singles rubbers 2-1 up and when Kukushkin went 2-1 up against world number one Djokovic it looked like a major upset was on the cards. However, Kukushkin was in unfamiliar territory leading the best player in the world in his backyard and he could not maintain his level of play and Djokovic cruised through the final two sets to level the tie at 2-2.
Victor Troicki sealed victory for Serbia with a straight sets win against Nedovyesov in the deciding singles rubber. They will now face Britain in the quarter finals this July and crucially will have home soil advantage, which does not bode well for Britain’s chances of defending their crown.
Italy and France both progressed to the quarter finals in easy fashion after 5-0 wins against Switzerland and Canada respectively. Switzerland were without their two star players Federer and Wawrinka, which left them without much hope and Canada were missing their star player Raonic, but with Italy playing on their strongest surface (clay) on home soil, his presence may not have made much of a difference.
Italy’s win earned them another home tie, this time against Argentina, who swept past an injury ravaged Poland team. The tie will most likely be played on clay again and, on paper, it should be one of the most exciting quarter finals to watch as both teams’ squads are made up of talented clay court specialists.
France will face a much sterner test of their Davis Cup winning ambitions in the quarter finals when they face the Czech Republic, who just came out on top against Germany on Sunday after Lucas Rosol thrashed talented teenager Alexender Zverev in the deciding singles rubber.
The Czech’s looked in command when they went 2-1 up after the doubles, but the tie was turned on its head when Tomas Berdych had to retire due to a hamstring injury when he was 2-0 down against Kohlshcreiber. However, Rosol became the unlikely hero for the Czechs and guaranteed their quarter final place after his comprehensive 3-0 win against Zverev.
Finally, Croatia set up a quarter final clash against the USA after they knocked out 2015 finalist Belgium in their backyard. The Croatians went in to Sunday’s deciding singles rubber with a 2-1 lead after they won the doubles on Saturday. David Goffin was Belgium’s star player again after he won both of his singles rubbers against Coric on Friday and Cilic on Sunday, which levelled the tie at 2-2. However, Coric made amends for his five sets singles defeat against Goffin on Friday when he won the deciding singles rubber 3-0 against Coppejans.