Opening day sees former winners close in on finals

AFP, PARIS

Sun, Feb 03, 2019 - Page 11

Alexander Zverev on Friday crushed Peter Nagy of Hungary to put Germany within touching distance of a place in the finals of the revamped Davis Cup.

The German world No. 3 beat the Hungarian, who finished last year outside the top 600, 6-2, 6-2, to put Germany 2-0 up with the doubles and reverse singles all to be played yesterday.

Philipp Kohlschreiber had opened the tie in Frankfurt by outlasting Zsombor Piros 6-7 (8/6), 7-5, 6-4.

Former champions Australia, Russia and Serbia also took 2-0 leads.

John Millman brushed aside Bosnian No. 1 Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-2, in Adelaide, Australia, before rising star Alex de Minaur beat Mirza Basic 6-3, 7-6 (7/0) to claim his first Davis Cup win.

“It’s a dream come true for me and I’m so happy I finally was able to get a win for my country in Davis Cup,” the 19-year-old De Minaur said. “You’re playing for your bench, you’re playing for your country — we don’t get to do that every week.”

Serbia also moved to within one win of qualification despite the absence of Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, as Dusan Lajovic saw off world No. 593 Sanjar Fayziev 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, before Filip Krajinovic’s 6-2, 6-4 win over Denis Istomin in Tashkent.

Russian youngster Daniil Medvedev survived a scare against Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen in their opening rubber, winning 7-6 (10/8), 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 to give the visitors the lead in Biel.

Then world No. 11 Karen Khachanov’s beat 362nd-ranked Marc-Andrea Huesler, 6-3, 7-5.

Italy also led 2-0 against India in Kolkata and Kazakhstan claimed the first two points against Portugal, with Alexander Bublik and Mikhail Kukushkin beating Joao Sousa and Pedro Sousa respectively.

Three other ties were level at the end of the first day.

Czech No. 1 Jiri Vesely came from a set down to beat Tallon Griekspoor 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in Ostrava, but then the top Dutch player, Robin Haase, squared the tie by beating Lukas Rosol 6-4, 6-4.

Taro Daniel drew Japan level at 1-1 with China in Guangzhou by beating Zhang Ze, after Yoshihito Nishioka’s shock loss to Li Zhe.

In Salzburg, Austria, Nicolas Jarry gave Chile the lead beating Austrian debutant Jurij Rodionov 7-5, 7-5 before Dennis Novak beat Christian Garin.

Brazil took a 1-0 lead at home in Uberlandia as Thiago Monteiro dispatched Belgian Arthur de Greef, 6-3, 6-1.

Rubbers are now played in a best-of-three-set format, replacing the best-of-five, with the reverse singles matches to now be played after the doubles, shortening the ties by one day to two.

The 12 winners in qualifying this weekend are to join automatic qualifiers Croatia, France, US, Spain, Argentina and Britain in November’s finals in Madrid.

Meanwhile in India, Andreas Seppi yesterday guided Italy into the finals after outplaying India 3-1.

Seppi brushed aside India’s No. 1 Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-1, 6-4 in the first reverse singles tie at Kolkata’s grass court after India avoided a whitewash by taking the doubles.

Italy, who had led 2-0, overnight were forced to extend the encounter after Simone Bolleli and Matteo Berrettini lost to Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan 6-4, 3-6, 4-6.

Seppi returned unfazed by Italy’s doubles loss to outplay the 102-ranked Gunneswaran in just over an hour to take his team into the finals.

“It was an important win for us. Of course after a tough doubles, I had to come out and play a deciding single in the end and I played a solid match,” Seppi said.

Seppi is not looking too far into the tennis calendar, but is confident of a strong showing by his team.

“It’s a tough event and it’s end of the season, so you never know how you feel as everybody is tired, so depends in which condition you go there, but I think we have a strong team,” he said.

Additional reporting by AFP