Germany bag first victory against winless France in Hopman Cup - UBITENNIS
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Germany bag first victory against winless France in Hopman Cup

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Alexander Zverev and Sabine Lisicki combined to keep Germany’s hopes alives of reaching the final of the Hopman Cup by putting France to the sword and eliminating the team made up of Caroline Garcia and Kenny De Schepper from the competition.

It was by no means a straightforward victory however as it came all the way down to the super tiebreak in the mixed doubles. Before that, Zverev made light work of De Schepper with a 6-2, 6-2 win, as the 18 year old continues to show signs of a promising career in the waiting.

“I think I played well, Kenny played well as well but I was really solid from the baseline, I wasn’t missing a lot, and I played really aggressive”, claimed the German after victory.

France were thrown a lifeline when Caroline Garcia won her second match in two ties. The 22 year-old put on a stunning display to defeat Sabine Lisicki 6-2, 7-6, in a match that saw a combined total of 42 winners and 60 unforced errors. A tremendous spectacle of which Garcia said: “I’m happy with the way I played. There are always a lot of things to improve but it’s getting better. It’s always difficult to play against Sabine, she’s got a great serve and forehand, so you have to be ready on every single point”.

With the mixed doubles getting Germany over the line, they face Great Britain on Friday with their options of a final appearance still very much alive.

Fed Cup

Injury Heartbreak Motivates Australia In Billie Jean King Cup Tie With Mexico

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SEVILLE, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 09: Storm Hunter of Team Australia reacts during the Billie Jean King Cup Finals group stage match between Australia and Kazakhstan at Estadio de La Cartuja on November 09, 2023 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images for ITF)

The captain of the Australian Billie Jean King Cup team says they are supporting one of their top players after she suffered a serious injury on the eve of their latest tie. 

Storm Hunter, who is currently ranked No.3 in the world for doubles, has suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon whilst training at a practice session on Thursday with her teammates. The severity of the injury means she will almost certainly be forced to pull out of this summer’s Olympic Games where she would have been a medal contender, as well as both the French Open and Wimbledon. Hunter has already won a WTA 1000 title this season in Dubai and was also runner-up in Indian Wells. In both of those tournaments, she was partnering Kateřina Siniaková. 

“Unfortunately yesterday in our last practice before the tie, I went down and scans last night confirmed that I have ruptured my Achilles tendon,” said Hunter.
“I am devastated and heartbroken, but incredibly grateful to be around the team and I know I have a great group of people around me that will help me get back on the court as soon as possible.
“Thank you everyone so much everyone for your messages of support and love. I’m excited to stay for the tie and support our Aussie girls.”

According to the Australian press, team captain Sam Stosur said Hunter’s teammates are ‘rallying behind‘ her and “wishing her the very, very best and the quickest recovery possible.”

As a result of the injury, Daria Saville was brought in to play in her country’s singles match on the opening day of their tie against Mexico on Friday. The world No.94 was in top form as she charged to a comprehensive 6-1, 6-0, win over Marcela Zacarias in less than an hour. 

“Yesterday was a pretty tough day for all of us, pretty emotional,” said Saville who has undergone surgery on her Achilles in the past. 
“It’s so nice to have Stormy here supporting us. Not long ago that kind of happened to me … so we’re giving Stormy a lot of love. 
“I felt like I was pretty determined and clearly that showed.”

Despite the blow, Australia is on the verge of beating Mexico. In the other singles match on the opening day, Arina Rodionova came back from a set down to beat Giuliana Olmos 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. With a 2-0 lead, they only need one more win to clinch the tie. 

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Could Regional Groups Boost Davis Cup’s Appeal?

Home-and-away ties are charming, but may be complicated and expensive. Round-robin groups are efficient, but may lack atmosphere. A possible solution for Davis Cup to have the cake and eat it, too

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The Australian Open ended barely a week ago and tennis has celebrated another milestone of its ever-grueling calendar. The past weekend saw Davis Cup select the 16 teams for the final stage of the competition through the Qualifiers that took place across continents and time zones.

We gave an account of the results of these 12 ties, some of which ended in a nailbiter, over the course of the past few days. Here, however, we want to stress once again how this highly criticized event, profoundly changed in its formula by the “Kosmos revolution”, still manages to generate unique emotions in its actors despite the lack of some components that had accompanied its history for over a century.

The tears of Nicolas Massu, captain of the Chilean national team, after the victory of the decisive match by Alejandro Tabilo over Peruvian Ignacio Buse summarise what Davis Cup means in that country, in which there are entire areas devastated by fires and whose populations were mentioned by the former Olympic gold medalist: “This victory is for those who are going through a difficult time – said Massu in front of the packed stands of the Estadio Nacional in Santiago even though it was already past midnight – in the hope that it can bring them at least a little happiness.”

The tie between Chile and Peru, won 3-2 by the hosts, reminded everyone, in case it was needed, of the charm of the “home and away” component of the Davis Cup, that is when one of the teams hosts the opponent on their own turf. But he wasn’t the only one: the tie decided in the third set tie-break in the deciding singles between Argentina and Kazakhstan, played on clay in Rosario, in which Sebastian Baez angrily snatched the last four points against Dmitry Popko, as the light was fading in the Argentine summer evening, provided a moment of great emotional intensity.

And it is worth noting that nothing has been taken away from the drama of these matches by the distance of the two sets out of three of all the matches: the “best of five” would have lengthened the matches and made some of these clashes as epic as perhaps impossible to follow by a television audience that cannot have entire days available (and it would have been three days instead of two) to follow Davis Cup matches.

This year the ITF has granted greater flexibility on the scheduling of matches: when this new formula debuted, the “home and away” ties had to be played on Friday and Saturday, to leave Sunday as a travel day for players who had to reach the venue of the next tournament. However, we have now seen different variations, with some host countries deciding to play on Saturday and Sunday to maximize the attendance of the crowd. The match between Ukraine and the USA even took place on Thursday and Friday in Vilnius, Lithuania, to facilitate the return of American players to Dallas, home of the next ATP tournament.

This Davis Cup formula is not perfect, this has been clear for quite some time. And the ITF, now back in control of the event after the failure of the Kosmos experiment, is going ahead in a succession of trials and errors trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, or rather safeguarding what good things the old Davis Cup formula still had by mixing them with the new element of the round-robin groups which significantly simplifies players’ lives, makes the competition logistically more predictable and, most importantly, limits the total cost of the competition.

The solution with the four groups in September and the knockout finals in November seems promising, but there are still too many matches played in front of half-empty arenas populated by only a few hundred fans. The groupings in a single venue, if on the one hand allow for more efficient logistical planning and limit unexpected changes of surface for the players, on the other hand in some cases remove the crowd factor which has very often been the essence of historic Davis Cup matches. One of the pillars of Kosmos’ vision, the ”World Cup of Tennis”, immediately proved to be an unattainable chimera, and that’s where Kosmos’ entire business plan started to crumble. Expecting tennis to have a sufficient number of fans willing to travel across the world to follow their national team, and do so every year, has proven to be completely unrealistic.

It is necessary to find corrective measures to bring the atmosphere of “home and away” ties to the arenas of round-robin groups. And one of these corrective measures could be to group the teams taking into consideration some geographic criteria. Up to this moment all the round-robin groups of the “new Davis Cup” have been played in Europe: many of the top players are European, most of the teams competing are European, and therefore it was a quite logical consequence. But if we look at the list of the 16 teams qualified for the September 2024 groups, we will notice that there are five teams from the American continent: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and the USA.

If it were possible to organize a grouping with four of these national teams in North America, Davis Cup would benefit immensely: a week-long event in a large arena in Canada or the USA, in a city with a strong immigrant component in which each of the South American national teams could count on a base of “local” fans, with the strong historical rivalries of these national teams (for example Canada vs USA, Argentina vs Brazil, Argentina vs Chile just to name a few) creating an incandescent atmosphere in the stands.

American players should not travel to Europe after the US Open and before the Asian swing, at that time NBA basketball and NHL hockey have not yet started, so it should not be difficult to find the availability of one of the iconic arenas in the United States or Canada. Furthermore, in this way, television broadcasters would also benefit as they would have some matches staggered by time zone instead of having four events almost all at the same time in Europe. Not to mention that American broadcasters would be able to show the ties of their own teams at more comfortable times, rather than early in the morning.

If we think about it, even American professional leagues such as the NBA and the NHL have created “divisions”, sub-groupings that require some teams to face each other more often than others, which not only limits the travel days in the very busy calendars of professional leagues but they are also designed to fuel historic rivalries in order to create an ever-increasing number of matches that can ignite the interest of fans.

The Davis Cup needs to find a similar mechanism to ensure that fewer and fewer aseptic matches are played in the echoing void of a deserted arena. In a few weeks the draw will decide the four September groups, when at least two of the three venues seem more or less safe (Bologna, Valencia and probably one in the United Kingdom). Last year the fourth venue for the September groups was Split, in Croatia, but this year Croatia will not take part in the Final stage after the defeat at home against Belgium last weekend. It will be unlikely that the ballot box will deliver an “entirely American group, but for the Davis Cup and for tennis it would be a godsend. Let’s hope the ITF can spot this enormous opportunity and acts accordingly.

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Novak Djokovic Refuses To Blame Fatigue For Davis Cup Defeat

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Novak Djokovic at the 2023 Davis Cup Finals in Malaga (photo by Marta Magni)

Novak Djokovic says his defeat in the Davis Cup on Saturday was a ‘huge disappointment’ but he isn’t taking any credit away from the performance of his opponents. 

The 24-time major winner was on the verge of taking Serbia into the final of the competition. Taking to the court after Miomir Kecmanović beat Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic knew that beating Jannik Sinner would secure his team an unassabile lead. Against the world No.4, he had a 5-4 lead in the deciding set with three consecutive match points at his disposal. However, Djokovic was unable to convert any of them and ended up losing 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. 

Then in the deciding doubles match, Djokovic and Kecmanovic lost 6-3, 6-4, to Sinner and Musetti. Resulting in Italy progressing to their first title tie in the competition since 1998. 

“Congratulations to Italy for qualifying for the finals,” Djokovic said afterward. “They deserved it. They played really well, particularly Jannik, in singles against me and then doubles, as well. He barely missed a ball the entire match.
“For me personally it’s a huge disappointment, because I take the responsibility, obviously having three match points, being so close to winning it. It’s unfortunate really. This is sport. When you lose for your country, the bitter feeling is even greater.”

It is only the fourth time in Djokovic’s career that he has suffered a loss after having match point opportunities. It is also the first time in his career he has been beaten by the same player (Sinner) multiple times in the Davis Cup. 

The defeat is a bitter end to what has been a highly successful season for Djokovic who has won three out of the four Grand Slam events held in 2023. Last week he beat Sinner to win his 98th Tour title at the ATP Finals in Turin. To put that tally into context, only Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors have won more ATP trophies than him. 

When asked if end-of-season fatigue played a role in his latest performance, Djokovic refused to find excuses. Coming into this weekend, he had won 21 consecutive matches in the Davis Cup. 

“I don’t want to talk about it because it’s going to sound like an excuse,” he said. 
“Obviously this is a tough one to swallow. I was really trying to hype myself and encourage myself for this week. 
“Throughout the entire season, my thoughts were this week with my Davis Cup team. I tried to contribute. I did in the first tie, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

As Djokovic begins his off-season, Italy will face Australia for the Davis Cup title on Sunday. It will be the first meeting between the two countries in the event since 1993. If Italy wins, it will be only the second time they have claimed the trophy after 1976. 

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