Youth — and a helpful line call — overcame experience yesterday as Taiwan moved to within one win of taking a preliminary round Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group I tie against Kazakhstan.
Taiwan’s 21-year-old Yi Chu-huan and 17-year-old Yang Tsung-hua, with a combined six Davis Cup matches between them, held off the stubborn challenge of veteran Alexey Kedryuk, who was playing in his 98th Davis Cup match, and 29-year-old Russian import Yuri Schukin, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The rare doubles win, only Taiwan’s second in nine Davis Cup ties since 2005, gives the hosts a huge advantage ahead of today’s reverse singles, in which the team will only have to take one of the two matches to capture the best-of-five match tie.
On a fast surface that clearly favored the server, yesterday’s match was decided by a brilliant performance from Yi, who aside from losing two points on his serve in the first tie-break, delivered at the crucial moments.
“I focused hard on every single point,” said the normally easily distracted Yi, none more so than when Taiwan were down 2-5 in the second-set tie-break with the match seemingly sliding away.
After getting a huge gift when Schukin pushed out an easy forehand volley that would have given the Kazakhs four set points, Yi hit a service winner and then pulled his side even with a gorgeous top-spin lob that froze the Kazakhs at the net.
Kedryuk then gave the visitors a set point with an overhead, but two consecutive winners at the net by an aggressive Yi reversed the tide and Taiwan took the set when Schukin could not handle a Yi return of serve.
After Kazakhstan lost the third set tie-break, they seemed ready to reverse the momentum by putting pressure on Yang’s serve in the first game of the ensuing set.
Facing his second break-point in the game, Yang sent a backhand passing shot that hit just beyond the baseline, television replays showed, but the ball was called in, giving Taiwan’s duo new life.
An agitated Kedryuk immediately protested to the chair umpire that Yang’s shot was out by a foot (30cm), but the chair umpire did not overturn the call.
Still, the Kazakhs earned another break opportunity in the game, saved by Yang with a blistering serve that Schukin could not return.
It was not until the final game of the match that either team had their serve broken.
Kedryuk was broken at love when Schukin volleyed a return by Yi long.
STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA
Taiwan’s women held on to their position in the Federation Cup’s Asia/Oceania Group I yesterday after defeating India 3-0 in a relegation battle.
Taiwan’s Hwang I-hsuan defeated Rushmi Chakravarthi 6-2, 7-5 in the day’s opening singles and Chan Chin-wei clinched the victory with a 7-5, 6-1 thumping of Ankita Bhambri.
In the inconsequential doubles match, Chan and Chuang Chia-jung easily toppled Ankita Bhambri and her sister Sanaa 6-4, 6-2 to complete the whitewash.
With the loss, India will be relegated to the Fed Cup’s Asia/Oceania Group II in next year’s competition, while Taiwan will remain in Group I.
In the group winners final, Australia beat New Zealand 3-0 to advance to the World Group II playoffs.
■SA TENNIS OPEN
AFP, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Top seeds Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and David Ferrer of Spain continued their relentless advance on Friday toward the SA Tennis Open final.