Belgium secured a place in the Davis Cup World Group yesterday, winning both the reverse singles in the playoff against Australia, the same opponents they knocked out of the elite league in 2007.
For the second time in the tie, which spilled into its fourth day because of heavy rain on Sunday, Oliver Rochus brought Belgium level when he downed Peter Luczak 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 at the Cairns International Tennis Centre.
In the decider, Steve Darcis beat Carsten Ball 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 to spoil Lleyton Hewitt’s celebration after the former world No. 1 had emerged as Australia’s most successful player in the competition’s history.
Hewitt had put Australia ahead on Saturday when he teamed up with Paul Hanley for an easy 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Rochus and Rubern Bemelmans, but he sustained a wrist injury in the process that ruled him out of the reverse singles and his late replacement, Luczak, could not reproduce the form that had helped him subdue Rochus in both of their previous encounters.
On Sunday, Janko Tipsarevic emerged as Serbia’s hero after he beat Radek Stepanek in the decisive rubber to propel his country to their first Davis Cup final with an nerve-jangling 3-2 win over the Czech Republic.
The often inconsistent Tipsarevic capped an outstanding individual weekend, having also beaten Tomas Berdych on Friday, by sweeping aside Stepanek 6-0, 7-6, 6-4 to power the Serbians into a home showdown against nine-time champions France.
Earlier, Novak Djokovic had pulled Serbia level at 2-2 after he downed Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in 3 hours, 14 minutes in front of 18,000 passionate home fans at the Belgrade Arena.
It was Tipsarevic who sent the capacity crowd into raptures with a flawless performance that saw him take the opening set in just 23 minutes, allowing Stepanek to win only seven points.
Tipsarevic seemed to be coasting when he took a 3-1 lead in the second set, but after Stepanek broke back to force the tiebreak, the Serbian had to save a set-point before clinching it.
He romped away to a 4-0 lead in the third set, before the nerves started to set in when Stepanek won three games in a row and then saved two match-points.
However, the Serbians could not be silenced and after Stepanek sent a backhand wide, the crowd went into a frenzy as they jumped to their feet to hail their hero.
In Lyon, France, Gilles Simon beat Eduardo Schwank and Arnaud Clement saw off Horacio Zeballos as France completed their 5-0 rout of Argentina in their Davis Cup semi-final.
In Bogota, Mardy Fish won his second five-set match in three days to lead the US to a 3-1 win over Colombia. The triumph keeps the US in the Davis Cup World Group.
Fish followed up his opening day win over Alejandro Fallo with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 victory over Santiago Giraldo to give the US an insurmountable lead in their playoff tie.
Germany wrapped up their whitewash of South Africa in their playoff when Florian Mayer’s win over Rik de Voest gave the hosts a 5-0 win.