|< Prev||Next >|
All four teams going into the final day of their Davis Cup quarter-final clashes with a lead progressed to the semi-finals of the premier men's team competition, with not even one of the ties going to a deciding fifth rubber. While Spain and Argentina eased through without much bother, Tomas Berdych had to fight off a valiant Janko Tipsarevic while John Isner had to battle both the crowd and a former Grand Slam finalist in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to help their teams advance to the final four.
Spain 4-1 Austria (Being played at Marina D'or, Oropesa Del Mar, Castellon, Spain Surface: Red Clay, Outdoor)
Spain came into the final day with a 2-1 lead having missed the opportunity to wrap up a 3-0 win as the doubles pairing of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez lost a close rubber to Olivier Marach and Alexander Peya on Saturday. First up on court and hoping to seal the win for the defending champions was World No.5 David Ferrer, looking to maintain his unbeaten run in Davis Cup matches on clay. He was up against Austrian No.1 Jurgen Melzer.
Both players took their time to get out of the blocks in a cagey first set with both players serving multiple double faults and missing break point opportunities before Melzer dragged a forehand wide in the twelfth game to hand the Spaniard the set 7-5. That was just the impetus Ferrer needed and he controlled the match from thereon, breaking early in the second and taking the set 6-3. While Melzer tried to stay in the hunt, he had simply no answer to Ferrer's baseline winners and was broken in the seventh and ninth games of the third set, the latter handing the match and the tie to Spain, as Ferrer won 7-5, 6-3,6-3.
In the inconsequential fifth rubber, Nicolas Almagro piled on more misery on the Austrians as he defeated makeshift singles player Alexander Peya 7-5, 7-5 to lend a sense of dominance to the overall scoreline, which was every bit of what this wonderful Spanish team deserved.
Czech Republic 4-1 Serbia (Being played at the O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic, Surface: Red Clay, Indoor)
At the start of the day, you wouldn't have blamed the Czechs for being apprehensive, the team no doubt thinking about that heartbreaking loss to Serbia in the semifinals 2 years ago. Going into the final day with a 2-1 lead, much as they did today, they capitulated when it mattered most, with both Berdych and Stepanek losing their matches to hand the Serbs a spot in the final. Berdych especially, who lost both his singles matches in that tie would have been longing to set the record straight going into this crucial fourth rubber against one of his conquerors 2 years ago, Janko Tipsarevic.
However, with Tipsarevic now a much improved player this was never going to be easy and Berdych discovered just that as the World No.7 and 8 battled it out in three tough and grueling tie-breaks before Berdych prevailed 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) to carry his team through to a place in the semifinals.
Berdych displayed signs of maturity during the match, showing great resolve and determination to come back from behind in all three of the tie-breaks and even saved set points in the third set. The opening set saw the Berdych serve broken in the eighth game, though parity was promptly restored with the Czech breaking back in the very next game. Twice in the tiebreak, Tipsarevic nosed ahead, only for Berdych to come storming back and edge the set. The second set was much like the first, with both players battling it out in a 14 point tie-break only for the Czech to once again produce the goods when it mattered most. The third set was a humdinger too, with Tipsarevic perhaps holding the upper hand and wasting as many as five set points, as again, it came down to taking one's chances as the Czech sealed the match and the tie thus banishing some of his demons from 2010.
Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil rightly gave his warhorse Radek Stepanek some much-needed rest in the now meaningless fifth rubber. However, the misery was not over for the Serbians as Victor Troicki continued his miserable form, losing to 6-7(5), 5-7 to Lukas Rosol, a player ranked 55 places below him.
Argentina 4-1 Croatia (Being played at Parque Roca, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Surface: Red Clay, Outdoor)
Juan Martin Del Potro ensured that there would be no final day jitters for the Argentinians as he produced a vintage performance easily defeating his rather fatigued contemporary, Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 to give his country an unassailable 3-1 lead.
The Argentinians had nosed ahead with an epic 5-set victory in the doubles rubber yesterday and that meant Del Potro could go out and play without that much pressure. On the other hand, Cilic had played 10 sets of tennis over the past 2 days, recording an epic 5-set victory over David Nalbandian on the opening day before partnering Ivo Karlovic in the doubles loss yesterday.
Del Potro dominated the match from the outset, never allowing his opponent to settle down as he won in 2 hours and 19 minutes, much to the delight of the home crowd. The Argentine broke Cilic in the very first game of the match and then broke him twice more to seal the first set 6-1. As if his tennis wasn't good enough, Del Potro earned brownie points with the crowd late in the first set by leaning over and kissing a butterfly, which then landed on the frame of his racket, much to the appreciation of the 14,000 strong sellout crowd.
The second set saw much of the same, with Del Potro breaking Cilic in the fourth game and once more to take a commanding two-set lead. With the crowd firmly behind him and chanting "Vamos, Vamos Argentina", it seemed as if the party had started early as he motored through the third set, winning it 6-1 and sealed his country's place in yet another semifinal.
In the fifth rubber, Juan Monaco fed on the party atmosphere in the stadium as he demolished Antonio Veic 6-1, 6-1 to give the Argentinians a 4-1 win.
France 2-3 USA (Being played at the Monte Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune, France. Surface: Red Clay, Outdoor)
John Isner is slowly getting used to being the toast of American tennis. When the 6ft 9 inch American beat Roger Federer on clay back in February, it was hailed as a 'shock' victory. When he beat Gilles Simon in the crucial second rubber of this tie, it was labeled a surprise. However, when he took to the court today against France's No.1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and duly emerged a 6-3, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3 victor a few hours later, the result was almost expected, accepted as yet another solid performance from the American which helped them to yet another Davis Cup win away on clay in what is turning out to be perhaps a game-changing season for the US Davis Cup team.
Under the tutelage of captain Jim Courier, Isner seems to have a new-found confidence and he showed that once again and despite offering the Frenchman as many as seven break point opportunites, the only time he actually wilted was in the eleventh game of the third set. While the French must have thought the comeback was on, especially as Tsonga seems to know how to win from two sets to love down (Wimbledon quarterfinal anyone?), Isner quickly put paid to their hopes with a break in the second game of the fourth set and then held on against a despairing crowd who became quieter and quieter as the inevitable was achieved and the US booked their third straight tie away from home on clay against defending champions Spain in September.
Gilles Simon restored some pride for the French in the final rubber of the tie, beating rookie Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-3, thus ensuring the French lost by the scoreline of 3-2 and giving captain Guy Forget a win in his final Davis Cup rubber, even though it was a dead one.
The semifinals to be played in September sees the Czech Republic travel all the way across the Atlantic to face Argentina while the USA will play their third straight away tie on clay as they attempt to beat their toughest opponents yet, the all-conquering Spaniards. With both ties impossible to predict, there is definitely something to look forward to for tennis fans as the Davis Cup enters its final four stage. Till then though, this glorious team competition will be on hold as the players get back to their routine, individual careers before once again teaming up to help lead their countries to glory.
File Photograph Copyright: Madrid Masters
- 22/04/2012 12:54 - Historic Davis Cup success for Cambodia
- 11/04/2012 18:54 - Canada draw South Africa in World Group play-offs
- 09/04/2012 14:21 - Yuki causes major upset, Bopanna wins too as India go down 2-3 to Uzbekistan