From Sydney Robbie Cappuccio
Australia closes the Slovakian file winning the doubles in four sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-6(2), thus maintaining its status in the World Group. Peers e Groth could not close the match in the third set lost momentum, but played then a perfect tie break to seal a 3-0 victory.
Another nice and sunny day in Sydney, where the grass – or what’s left of it – of the Ken Rosewall Arena hosts the doubles match, which in Davis Cup could be the decider or a totally irrelevant match: given the easy victories of Kyrgios and Tomic in day one, we are definitely in the second scenario.
It’s 1 PM when the match starts, with Slovakian Andrej Martin and Igor Zelenay (both ranked around 80th position in ATP doubles) desperately trying to keep the tie alive. Australia starts at a good pace, with Groth serving often at 220 km/h, with top speed of 233 and returning really well, especially with the backhand along the line from deuce side. Peers is a doubles specialist, n.26 of doubles ranking, tactically very savvy, serving precisely and with a soft touch and great reflexes at the net. Out of the four, Martin has by far the weakest serve, lacking fluidity and power, the first serve travelling at 17 km/h. He has to face two consecutive break points straight away, but holds. Australia holds serve to love a few times (both Groth and Peers will lose 3 points on their serve in 5 rounds), but cannot convert break points (0/4) until 5-4. With Zelenay on serve, Peers first plays a great point at the net, then hits a winner backhand return. Also Groth returns a 200 km/h serve with a backhand winner and Australia is up 0-40 with 3 consecutive set points. At the third attempt Peers and Groth take the first set 6-4 and are in control.
It takes 24 minutes only to the Aussies to take the second set, breaking Zelenay on 2-1 and then on 5-2 when the Slovakian hits two consecutive double faults. It looks like the Aussies are cruising, and in control. “They played well, but we were the one creating all the opportunities” said Groth in the press conference. It was actually a great game by the Australian pair, serving well (Groth looking for the bomb, Peers alternating kick, slice and topspin and acing on second serve at 149 km/h) returning well, taking the net, displaying both power and soft touch.
Then something happen. Slovakia changes their position on return “I went to the deuce side and Andrej on the ad side and we did a better job”, says Igor Zelaney at the press conference. The Aussies cannot put the foot down, the Slovakians start reading Groth’s serve and so the Aussies are taken to the tie-break, despite having a match point at 6-5, which Martin saves with a good serve. The tie-break is played superbly by the Slovakian, especially by Martin: a stop volley gives them 4 consecutive set points. The first one is saved by Groth’s serve, but then Zelaney seals the set: 7-6(3) and the match is re-opened.
As the sky changes and becomes cloudy, so does the momentum of match. The Australians now have to work more to hold serve, whereas the Slovakian win a number of love games on theirs. Groth’s return is not effective anymore and he looks a little bit slow on his feet especially at the net. The Australian are behind in the score, even if not broken, and kept afloat by John Peers, to me the best on court, (both when defending from the baseline and at the net), to reach the tie-break.
As it often happens in tennis, here comes another momentum swing. First Martin put an easy forehand volley wide, then Groth finds focus and return, Peers keeps on returning well and Australia is up 5-0 and then 6-1. “The first point was really unlucky then Groth hit a great serve and then we had a misunderstanding, a little bit of bad luck again” comments Martin. Slovakia saves the first match point, then another great return by Groth gives Peers the opportunity to poach in and seal the victory with a backhand volley.
“[Staying in the World Group] was a goal after the loss to US in march [..] we put a lot of work into this ties, you know, the boys came to prepare early and did all the right things. Having a grass court here in Sydney as well, which I thing played to our hands.[…] we did absolutely everything to reach this outcome.” says captain LLeyton Hewitt. “Today the boys put in a really solid performance. They did not drop serve, did not face a break point in the match”
The final day will probably see one rubber only played at best of 3 tiebreak sets. Possibly Groth against Gombos, in what can be called an exhibition game.
Alexander Zverev Slams Revamped Davis Cup Finals
The world No.7 has reiterated his opposition to the changes that have been made to the historic competition.
LONDON: Alexander Zverev has said he hopes people realize that the Davis Cup is more than money as he launched a fresh attack on the restructured competition.
Next week will be the first time in history that the Davis Cup finals will take place over a week with 18 teams participating. Unlike the past with home and away finals, teams will battle it out in a format similar to that of the FIFA World Cup with group stages deciding who will progress to the quarterfinals. The revamp has been made possible following a 25-year $3 billion investment from Kosmos, which was founded by Barcelona footballer Gerald Pique.
Despite the controversial changes, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray have all pledged to play. However, Zverev will be one of the players absent. Instead, he will travel to South America to play in a series of exhibition matches with Roger Federer.
“I don’t think the format is Davis Cup anymore. I think Davis Cup is the most historic event that we have in tennis, which is over 100 years old, and the Davis Cup is the home-and-away ties.” Zverev said following his win at the ATP Finals on Friday.
“Davis Cup is the whole atmosphere, the play over three days to play five sets and play those tough matches. That’s Davis Cup for me, and not playing it at one venue for one week and deciding it all. That’s not Davis Cup.”
The Caja Magica, which hosts the Madrid Open in May, will be the venue of the Davis Cup finale next week. Leading up to the event, there have been concerns over ticket sales for some of the sessions. Meanwhile, former world No.1 Murray has previously expressed uncertainty over the distribution of tickets for the later stages of the event.
“From what I hear we’ve (the British LTA) sold a lot of tickets and will have a decent fanbase out there.” Said Murray.
“But how does that work if we get through to the quarter-finals – who has tickets for that? How many can stay? We’ll see but it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.”
It remains to be seen how much of a hit the new format will be. Although Pique and co are determined to prove their critics wrong. Besides tennis, there will also be opening and closing ceremonies. On November 18th DJ Alan Walker will kick-off then event along with Puerto Rican singer Farruko. On the same day, the Spanish band Taburete will play on the main stadium following the first match between Croatia and Russia. The closing ceremony on the 24th will be headlined by Shakira, who is the wife of Kosmos founder Pique.
Despite the much-needed investment into the Davis Cup, which has encountered financial issues in recent years, Zverev isn’t convinced. Arguing that there is more to the event than money.
“I hope people realize that the Davis Cup is more than just money and all that like they are offering us now. It’s history, and it’s tennis history.” He said.
“It’s more than just what’s on the table for the players now.”
The absence of Zverev is undoubtedly a major blow to the German team. He is one of four players from his country in the top 100, but the only one inside the top 30. Reacting to his absence, Boris Becker has insisted that there are no hard feelings.
“He’s old enough to make his own decision. He decided amongst a few other players when the decision was made to change the Davis Cup format and to have it in one week next year not to participate.” Becker said earlier this week.
“He’s done the decision already a while ago amongst many other players. We accept it.”
As for the decision to play in South America during the same time as the Davis Cup, Becker has defended Zverev. Saying he is entitled to do what he wants.
“What he does in his off time, he’s his own man. We were all our own boss. What he chooses to do or not to do between the end of the ATP Finals and the beginning of 2020 is his choice.” He stated.
Zverev is already qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games, but he will need to return to the event if he will be eligible to play in future games. Under rules set out by the International Tennis Federation, who runs both the Davis Cup and Olympic competitions. Although players can apply for special exemptions.
Heather Bowler is the director of communications for the ITF. In a recent email exchange with Ubitennis, she stated that her organization intends to make no changes to their Olympic eligibility criteria.
“World rankings have always been used to determine entries to the Olympic Tennis Event. However all International Sports Federations represented at the Games use their global competitions as part of their Olympic Qualification criteria, and the ITF believes that it is appropriate that participants should show a commitment to representing their national team.” Said Bowler.
The Davis Cup finals will get underway on Monday.
Could The ATP Cup Move Tim Henman Closer To Davis Cup Captaincy?
The former world No.4 sheds light on if he would like to lead his nation in a more permanent role in the future.
LONDON: A day after three world No.1 players spoke out about the ATP Cup, it was Tim Henman’s turn to face the media at The O2 Arena on Friday.
The 45-year-old will lead the British team in the inaugural event at the start of 2020. Placing him in a national team captain role for the first time in his life. He was nominated for the position by three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray, who spoke with him just over a month ago. The two have known each other since Murray was a teenager.
“If I’m honest, it was not something that I had given a great deal of thought at that stage,” said Henman.
“Then when we did discuss it, I think there are lots of reasons why I accepted, and I think one of the reasons is Andy. I have had a great relationship with him for a long, long time.”
As it currently stands the former world No.4 will lead a team of five players. Besides Murray, Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie, Jamie Murray, and Joe Salisbury have all committed to the event. Which has a prize money pool of $15 million and up to 750 ranking points for those who win the title without losing any matches.
Henman’s selection came ahead of Leon Smith, who has been the British Davis Cup captain since April 2010. Smith, who guided his country to the Davis Cup title in 2015, has been in contact with Henman about his new role.
“Leon is someone that I have known for a long, long time. He’s done a fantastic job in Davis Cup.” Henman states.
“From my point of view, I’m very excited about the ATP Cup, but this isn’t in any way a stepping stone for me moving into other things. I don’t want to do that. I’ve got enough, other commitments with my family, with Wimbledon, the partners that I work with.”
The four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist appears adamant when he plays down a future role in the Davis cup, which has a new format from this year. However, he admits that should he shine in Australia next year, it could persuade him to change his mind in the future. Two out of the three captains before Smith (John Lloyd and Roger Taylor) didn’t take on the role until after their 50th birthdays.
“As I sit here now I don’t have an aspiration to be Davis Cup captain. It’s in a new format now, but certainly before when the time commitment was going to be much more significant it was never something that really appealed to me.’ Henman explains.
“But talking specifically about this event, I’m really looking forward to and I think there are so many exciting aspects of it.’
“Once the event has happened, then I will have time to reflect and see what I want to do going forward.” He added.
The ATP Cup will start on January 3rd. Britain has been drawn in the same group as Belgium, Moldova, and Bulgaria. They will kick off their campaign in Sydney on the opening day of the tournament against Bulgaria, who is being captained by Grigor Dimitrov.
Henman’s Davis Cup player record
|First year played||1994|
Novak Djokovic Confident Elbow Scare Will Not Hamper Davis Cup Duty
LONDON: Novak Djokovic’s niggling elbow issue briefly resurfaced during his last match played at this year’s ATP Finals in what was a slight scare for the camp of the 16-time grand slam champion.
The world No.2 was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Roger Federer, who he last lost to back in 2015. It was far from a vintage performance from the Serbian, who appeared somewhat flat on the court. Potentially suffering from the after-effects of his three-set thriller with Dominic Thiem that occurred two days prior.
“There was not much that I did right this match, to be honest. I mean, realistically he was a better player in all aspects and absolutely deserved to win.” Djokovic told reporters in London.
“He served great, moved well, returned my serve very well. From his end, I think he did everything right. From my end, I was just playing too neutral. I couldn’t read his serve well. Just a pretty bad match from my side.”
It was during the match where some started to notice the 32-year-old flexing his elbow at certain points. Raising fears among his entourage. In the past, he has experienced numerous issues with that area of the body. Missing the second half of the 2017 season to rest his elbow and undergoing minor surgery on it the following year.
Nevertheless, Djokovic continued on the court and was never on the verge of calling for a trainer on the court. However, concerns are starting to mount about if he could miss the upcoming Davis Cup in Madrid to avoid aggravating it further.
“I hope it’s nothing that will prevent me from playing Madrid. The pain was pretty sharp.” He revealed.
“I could play the rest of the match, so if I had something really serious I think I wouldn’t be able to hold the racquet. So it was probably just an awkward, quick movement that I did. It did not pose any form of issues later on.”
Djokovic hasn’t played in the team tournament since his country’s quarter-final loss to Spain in 2017. He has represented Serbia in 25 ties. Winning 34 out of 44 matches played. Speaking about the event during the same press conference, he then said ‘things are physically fine.’ Disregarding the elbow scare he spoke about just minutes before.
“Of course the gas tank is not as full as the beginning of the season, but I am motivated to join the guys and play there because I have not played in the team competition of Davis Cup for some time.” He said.
“I look forward to it. They are my dear friends, all of the guys in the team, and I can’t wait to feel that team spirit. The format is different. Should be exciting.”
Now his 2019 season on the ATP Tour has come to an end, Djokovic closes the year out with five titles. Including Wimbledon and the Australian Open. His 54 wins mean that he has won 50 or more matches in 12 out of the past 13 seasons.
Only three players have managed to score multiple wins over Djokovic in 2019 – Roberto Bautista Agut, Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem.
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