In a top notch doubles match the American brothers defeat in 5 sets Hewitt and Peers 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3
Tennis doubles is as (rightfully) mistreated in the ATP circuit, as fundamental in Davis Cup. Not a fan myself of doubles, but today in Kooyong the crème de la crème of doubles was playing: the Bryan brothers – i.e. the most successful doubles team ever – against Aussies John Peers (doubles specialists, 9 titles mostly with Jamie Murray) and Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt? Isn’t he retired and Davis Cup captain? Well it was so till 11AM, when – just one hour prior match commencement – the breaking news arrived: Hewitt will replace Groth and pair up with John Peers to face the Bryan brothers. The Aussie icon is officially out of retirement and leading the charge against the best doubles team ever and when he appears on the court the Kooyong arena explodes chanting. “We were not surprised at all to see Hewitt playing” says Bob at the press conference “He’s been playing a lot the whole week, both doubles and singles, more than anyone else“. “It was decided last night. Share the workload was the determining factor“, states Hewitt diplomatically.
It’s a cloudy day in Melbourne and a temperature of 22C, much better conditions than yesterday’s scorching hot. The Fanatics, in green and gold, are singing, chanting, clapping, cheering with great choreography. After a minute silence in memory of Bud Collins, on the grass court the rubber starts at 12:08 with Bob Bryan (the lefty) serving and holding easily. Australia replies with Peers. After Mike Bryan (the righty) holding serve easily it’s Hewitt’s turn. Rusty is very focused, but also appears quite tense. At 40-15 shouts his first “C’mon” but that’s not enough. At the second break point Hewitt is broken and then the USA flies up 4-1. The American brothers – particularly Bob – are returning very well and playing effectively at the net, playing especially on Hewitt who appears at this stage less solid than Peers. At 4-2 USA, the Aussies have 3 opportunities in a row to break back, but the USA manage to hold: Bob Bryan’s serve is as deadly as his blocked backhand. That was the only opportunity for the Aussies in the first set; the Bryan brothers take the set 6-3 with a forehand return in the net by Hewitt.
The second set flows similarly to the first one; at 3 all Hewitt faces a break point after a great backhand passing shot by Bob Bryan. This one is saved, but soon after the Aussies face a second: Hewitt is broken again. At 5-3 USA, Peers – up to this point very solid on serve, leaving only a couple of points to the Americans – feels the pressure and is broken for a final 6-3. Two sets to love for the Americans in 1 hour and a forecast of a short match, as the American brothers appear in total control.
And then what you don’t expect happens: that’s why we love tennis. Hewitt’s intensity grows, as does his return: at 3 all two backhand returns by the Aussie icon and a volley by Peers bring the Australian up 0-40. As in the first set they are not able to convert them, with an overhead in the net by Peers, but a forehand return by Hewitt gives them a fourth chance. “C’mon mate, go” shouts Lleyton to Peers, who delivers and finally the Aussies break the USA, to then hold to 0: 5-3 Australia. Peers serves for the set at 5-4 and this time he holds nerves and serve: the Kooyong arena explodes chanting and Australia re-open the match. “You could feel the adrenalin flowing” says Peers commenting on the Fanatics, the vocal and colourful Aussie supporters “they got us back into the match they were amazing“.
Hewitt is now on fire, keeps on returning as well as when he was at the top of his career. Yet another foot fault for Mike Bryan (quite a few for both twins) and the Aussies break in the third game: 2-1 Australia. The match surges in intensity with great rallies at the net: this is great doubles! Both teams hold serve and it’s Peers’ turn again to serve for the set: spotless delivery and Australia takes the fourth set 6-4 and levels up the rubber.
The tension is now really high. The Bryan brothers have not won over 100 titles each by chance and get their thoughts together are regroup. As Hewitt says in the press conference “doubles is made of small momentum swings“, and so the Americans fly 3-0 in just 8 minutes breaking Peers to 0. After a quarter of an hour it’s 5-2. Hewitt faces 2 consecutive match points and then saves a third to hold serve, but it’s Bob Bryan’s turn. He’s been a machine throughout the match and the mechanism does not grip. He does not miss one point and the USA close after 2:30 with the final score of 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.
So what will happen tomorrow? Will Hewitt replace Groth in what could be the decider of the tie? “That’s not my concern, I care about what happens on my side of the net” says Courier. “Both Isner and Tomic have played very well, maybe John [Isner] has got a little advantage because he played three sets only, but it will be tough”. On his side Hewitt does not exclude playing “I feel comfortable playing double or singles“, but for now “we need Bernie [Tomic] to win, as simple as that. He needs to serve well, Isner has been serving very well. Bernie plays a totally different style of game from Sam”.
From Melbourne, Robbie Cappuccio
Former Grand Slam Champion Hits Out At ‘Abysmal’ Davis Cup
Australia’s most successful doubles player in Davis Cup history isn’t happy about the changes made to team event.
Former world No.1 Doubles player Todd Woodbridge has taken a fresh swipe at the revamped Davis Cup and their allocation of wild cards for the 2020 finals.
The 48-year-old has blasted the format of the historic team event following major changes that was made this year. Last month was the first time the finals took place over a week with 18 teams participating in one location in Madrid. At the event there was a few blips with the scheduling being at times problematic. Highlighted by the tie between the USA and Italy that went on until 4am.
Despite the issues, there were also positives to be taken away from the event, which was won by Spain. However, Woodbridge remains a critic. The Australian is his country’s most successful doubles player in the history of the Davis Cup with 25 wins under his belt. Overall, he played in 32 ties over a 14-year period (1991-2005).
“The tennis itself has been brilliant, the organisation has been abysmal,” Woodbridge said on Australian programme Sports Sunday.
“Everything from IT issues, to playing matches that finish at 4am, and then today the ITF go, ‘Well we’re going to put in more wild cards.”
It is the wild cards decision that has irritated the 16-time grand slam champion the most. Recently it was announced that Serbia and France has been handed passes into the finals next November. Meaning that will not have to go through the play-off ties. Woodbridge has suggested the move was deliberately made in order to persuade Novak Djokovic to play in the event again.
“They’ve given wild cards this week, for 12 months’ time. You’ve got to ask the question, how can you do that? It looks like they’re guaranteeing Novak Djokovic a spot for next year … ‘We want you back so we’re going to guarantee you can be there, you don’t have to play the qualifying match earlier in the year,” he said.
“And then France have also been put in, so you’ve got to ask the question, the President of the ITF is also French and I’m sure he’s had a big influence in that discussion. They’ve got so many things to fix if it’s going to be a success next year.
“The biggest issue was crowd. We (Australia) played our first match with about 400 people watching, and that’s a great disappointment.”
Gerard Pique if the founder of Kosmos, whose investment has enabled the transformation of the Davis cup. In a recent interview with Spanish media, he said the allocation of a wild card to France was done so the country ‘feel part of the competition because the format will continue like this.’
“We’re delighted with how everything went and above all with the final, which Spain won,” he told Onda Cero about the 2019 Davis Cup finals. “There are things which need to be improved, like the times of the games, which has an easy solution in the form of adding another court and changing the times a little bit.”
The 2020 Davis Cup qualifying rounds will get underway in March.
Roberto Bautista Agut: ‘My Father Would Have Given Me An Earful If I Had Stayed At Home’
The Spaniard opens up about his decision to return to the Davis Cup following the death of his father.
Throughout the Davis Cup finals player’s have illustrated their commitment to their country in the competition, but Roberto Bautista Agut took it to another level.
The world No.9 was hit with personal tragedy half-way through the event in Madrid. On November 21st Bautista Agut left the competition to return home after receiving the news that his father’s health had taken a turn for the worse. Ximo Bautista had a serious domestic accident three years ago, which caused serious health issues. He passed away shortly after his son returned home.
Grieving for the loss of his father, 18 months after his mother died, Bautista Agut attended his funeral on Saturday. 24 hours after that he was back playing in the Davis Cup once again representing Spain.
“I made the decision to go home on Thursday and I was lucky to be with my father the last minutes of his life and say goodbye to him.” Bautista Agut told reporters. “My father would have given me an earful if I had stayed at home.”
The unexpected and admirable return of the 31-year-old brought glory to his team on Sunday. In the first tie of the final, Bautista Agut disposed of Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets to hand the hosts the lead. Victory was then sealed in the following match after Rafael Nadal defeated Denis Shapovalov.
“When I took the car to come (back to the Davis Cup), the last thing on my mind was to play,” he said.
“But in the final, my head wanted to face that game, and luckily it went well.’
“I didn’t know if I could measure up, but I left everything there. The moment has been very beautiful and unrepeatable.”
World No.1 Nadal has described his rival as an ‘inspiration’ for showing his commitment to the Davis Cup. Bautista Agut played a total of three matches in the seven-day event, winning two of those. His victory over Auger-Aliassime made him only the 10th Spanish player in history to have won a match in a Davis Cup final.
“What Roberto did today (Sunday) is something out of this planet,” Nadal said. “Roberto has been an inspiration to all of us.
“Whatever happens this cannot be a climax for someone who has lost his father this week.”
The Davis Cup triumph caps off what has been a strong season for Bautista Agut, who has cracked the year-end top 10 for the first time in his career. His only title took place back in January where he won the Qatar Open. At Wimbledon he reached his first-ever grand slam semi-final. Overall, Bautista Agut achieved a win-loss of 42-22.
The Spanish No.2 will marry his longtime girlfriend next weekend.
Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut Guide Spain To Davis Cup Glory
Spain has ended their eight-year title drought at the newly revamped competition.
World No.1 Rafael Nadal has clinched the Davis Cup title for Spain after defeating Denis Shapovalov in straight sets to give his country an unassailable lead in their clash against Canada.
Nadal, who hasn’t lost a match throughout the entire week in Madrid, overcame some spirited play from across the court to prevail 6-3, 7-6(7). Sealing the trophy for his country for the first time since 2011.
During his clash with Shapovalov, the 16-time grand slam champion broke once during the opening set, but was tested thoroughly in the second. Fighting his way through some lengthy service games with one of those lasting almost 10 minutes.
It would be a dramatic tiebreaker where he sealed the victory. It looked as if Nadal would be strolling to the win after hitting an ace to claim two match points at 6-4. However, both of those were saved by forehand winners from Shapovalov who drew level once again. It would be third time lucky for Nadal after a shot from across the court slammed into the net. Prompting him to drop to the ground in tears of joy.
“I could not be happier. It has been an unforgettable moment in this amazing stadium (Caja Magica).” Said Nadal.
“Our team spirit prevailed. We fought hard.” He added.
The Spanish team got off to a solid start in the tie thanks to Roberto Bautista Agut’s admirable return to the competition. 31-year-old Agut left the event half-way through the week due to his seriously ill father who sadly passed away. However, he came back to Madrid and got the hosts their first point after disposing of an error-stricken Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(3), 6-3. The 19-year-old, who was playing his first match in the seven-day competition, committed 45 unforced errors.
“It was a very special feeling on the court,” Agut told Eurosport after.
“I just could go out and try my best, give my best.
“I am very happy I could win the first point for Spain.”
The Spanish team were unbeaten on home soil this week. Scoring wins over Russia, Croatia, Argentina and Great Britain. Making them the first ever winners of the revamped Davis Cup, which featured a total of 18 teams in finale.
“It has been an amazing week. There have been a lot of things we went through.” Nadal reflected.
“The father of Roberto passed away, Marcel (Granollers) yesterday was stiff with his lower back and Pablo (Carreno-Busta) getting injured in the singles. A lot of things happened.”
Nadal’s commitment to the competition has been hailed by captain Sergi Bruguera. Who described the world No.1 as being ‘out of this world.’ He has played in eight matches with five of those being in the singles competition. Overall, he dropped only one set in his doubles match against Russia.
“Rafa, I don’t know if he is out of this world.” Said Bruguera.
“Throughout this week I don’t think there was one day we went to sleep before 3am. One day, I think it was Friday, he went to sleep at 5:10am and then he was playing singles and doubles again (the next day).”
Although Nadal was a key figure in the triumph, it wasn’t just him that guided his country to victory. It is the sixth time in History Spain has won the event. Historically, there are now ten Spanish men who have won a match in a Davis Cup final.
“The truth is when you have this kind of moment it is difficult to describe in words because there are so many feelings. So many emotions I have never felt before.” Their captain explained.
“I have no words for this. Roberto was at his father’s funeral yesterday and now he was here (in Madrid) giving everything.’
“The mentality, spirit and concentration of the team I have no idea how to describe.”
Spain has a chance to defend their title on home soil next year with Madrid being the chosen host of the 2020 finals.
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