Italy is one match away from knocking out defending champions from Argentina in the first round of the BNP Paribas Davis Cup World Grop after scoring two wins in the first two singles matches in the Parque Sarmiento in Buenos Aires.
Paolo Lorenzi beat Guido Pella 6-3 6-3 6-3 in the opening match before Andreas Seppi clinched the second point for Italy with a 6-1 6-2 1-6 7-6 (8-6) win over Carlos Berloq in almost three hours. Seppi was a late replacement of Fabio Fognini, who was forced to pull out of his match due to medical reasons.
Lorenzi got the first break to 30 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead, as Pella made a forehand error on the break point. At 4-2 Lorenzi saved three break points. In the 7th game Lorenzi did not convert three set points at 5-2 15-40 on Pella’s serve. Lorenzi held his serve to 15 at 5-3 to close out the first set 6-3.
Lorenzi got an early break in the first game of the second set. He saved two break points at 2-1 15-40 before missing two break points for 4-1 in the next game.
At 5-2 the top Italian player dropped his serve to 30 after saving the first two break points with an ace. In the next game Pella hit a drop-shot into the net at 15-30. Lorenzi broke serve to win the second set 6-3.
Lorenzi broke serve at deuce in the fourth game of the second set but dropped his serve at deuce after two double faults. Lorenzi bounced back by breaking to 30. He held his serve to 15 with an ace on the game point. Pella saved a match point at 5-2 and held his serve.
Lorenzi served out the match to love in two hours and 25 minutes. Lorenzi broke serve six times Pella made 47 unforced errors.
“I think that today I was playing pretty good. I was doing the right things in every moment. I think it was a very solid match. It was a tough game beyond the result, because the first two sets lasted two hours. The match was more hard-fought than the scorelline suggests”, said Lorenzi.
Seppi needed 2 hours and 58 minutes to battle past Carlos Berloq in four sets 6-1 6-2 1-6 7-6 (8-6). The Italian player, who reached the fourth round at the Australian Open last month, won six consecutive games from 0-1 down with three breaks in the third, fifth and seventh games to win the first set 6-1. Seppi saved three break points at 4-1 15-40. At 5-1 he broke serve on the fourth set point after a 10-minute game, as Berloq hit his forehand into the net.
Seppi opened up a 4-1 lead with a break in the second game to 15. At 4-2 Seppi made two consecutive double faults at 15-0 but saved two break points to hold his serve. The Italian closed out the second set with a break to 15.
In the third set Seppi dropped his serve in the first game after earning two game points for 1-0. Berloq broke twice more in the fifth and seventh games to cruise through to a 6-1 win.
Seppi fought back in the fourth set and broke serve to 30 at 2-2. He got the double break to love at 4-2. Berloq clawed his way back into the set by breaking twice to draw level to 5-5. In the tie-break Seppi missed three match points at 6-3. Seppi produced a forehand winner for 7-6 before wrapping up the match as Berloq sent his forehand return wide.
“It was a complicated game. I had not played on clay for six months, and I barely trained here for three or four days. This morning I learned that Fognini was not feeling well and would have to replace him. I lost a bit of concentration in the last two sets but I am happy that I could close it”, said Seppi.
Italian Davis Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti was pleased with the results achieved by Seppi and Lorenzi, but does not want to take the win for granted.
“We still have to keep playing. We are very happy for Paolo’s game in the first match because it is not easy to play that first point as well as he did. He was very consistent. Andreas started the first two sets magnificent, then lost concentration. It was not easy, but he won.
Is Covid-19 Just An Excuse To Axe The 2020 Davis Cup Finals?
The decision to cancel the team event five months before it was set to start may be more complex than what officials are letting on.
On Friday the International Tennis Federation issued a statement to confirm that their two premier tennis team events will not be taking place this year.
The Davis Cup and Fed Cup tournaments have been delayed until 2021 due to the global uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Davis Cup, it is only the 12th time in history a season has ended without a champion being decided since its birth in 1900 and the first since 1945. The teams that have qualified for the week-long finals this year will instead have to wait until November 2021 to battle it out for the title.
“This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”
There are however some questions over why the ITF has made this announcement five months before the start of the tournament. Especially when both the ATP and WTA Tours are set to restart in August. Furthermore Madrid, where this year’s finals were scheduled to take place, will still host their premier combined event at the Caja Magica in September.
“It’s the inconsistencies that I find tedious. Two months before the Davis Cup was meant to be playing we are playing at the same venue in Madrid for the masters. In regards to the crowds there seemed to be a fair bit of social distancing at this event last year,” John Millman wrote on Twitter.
It appears that there could be a more substantial financial reason to postpone the Kosmos-backed event. Investment company Kosmos was founded by Gerard Pique and has pledged millions into the Davis Cup in a deal to help revamp it. French newspaper L’Equipe have quoted sources reporting that the event lost an astonishing 50 million euros in 2019, which was the first year where the new format took place. Furthermore, it has been reported that the decision to scrap November’s event will help save 18 million euros.
Furthermore, one senior figure at Tennis Canada has suggested that Pique had tried to do everything he could to prevent the tournament from taking place. Louis Borfiga, who serves as his country’s Vice President of High Performance, said he believes there has been no meetings with the federations prior to Friday’s announcement.
“While everyone is doing everything possible to try to replay, I have the impression that Piqué did everything to prevent the Davis Cup from taking place this year,” he said in a separate interview with L’Equipe.
“ They (Kosmos leaders) put forward health reasons, I hope they are the right ones. They are going to have the right role. There is nothing we can say about health.”
“When I read the official press release, I am surprised by one thing. It is Piqué who speaks first, and the president of the ITF (David Haggerty) after. That too is shocking.” He added.
Borfiga is not alone in this view. Back in March tennis player Nicola Mahut criticised Pique for not being more optimistic about holding the finals this year. The Spaniard had previously said he was ‘pessimistic’ about having the event without fans.
“The message he sent through his statements is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it will be cancelled and he will save some money.” Mahut commented.
According to Diario AS, the Madrid economy will lose in the region of 50 million euros due to the finals not being held. Furthermore, it is estimated that 600 jobs would have been created to support the running of the tournament from start to finish.
Gerard Pique’s Pessimistic Davis Cup Outlook Blasted By French Tennis Star
The football player has been urged to ‘put more energy’ in finding a solution for the event to take place in 2020.
Kosmos founder Gerard Pique has come under fire over his plans for the Davis Cup Finals later this year after recently casting doubt on the event taking place due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Pique, whose company helped finance the transformation of the 120-year-old team competition, recently admitted that he was doubtful that the event could go ahead if crowds weren’t allowed to attend. Last year was the first time the new format of the competition took place with 18 teams featuring in a week-long round-robin tournament which was won by host nation Spain.
“I’m a bit pessimistic, to have the Davis Cup with no fans is difficult,” Pique told Movistar.
“There is a lot of uncertainty. We are listening to what the sport’s ministry and the government are telling us about whether we’ll have the ability to have fans.”
All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic. Officials are hoping to be able to get the sport going again in August ahead of the US Open that is scheduled to take place. Although some have doubts about the chances of the Tour’s starting by then, including world No.43 John Millman.
Amid the ongoing uncertainty, French tennis star Nicolas Mahut has criticized Pique’s bleak outlook for this year’s Davis Cup finale. The 38-year-old has represented his country in 13 ties, including the 2018 final as well as the semifinals in two other years.
“We don’t have a lot of information. But as a player, you can just trust the official statements. And when I hear Pique, I’m extremely disappointed,” Mahut told L’Equipe.
Mahut has called on Pique to explore more options such as potentially relocating the event to another country if it would make it safer for the event to go ahead. Implying that he was his duty to do so after setting ‘to destroy the formula’ of the event. Critics of the revamp have accused Pique of ruining the traditional competition.
“I would like him to put as much energy into saving the Davis Cup that he has set up. That is to say, to find solutions for it to take place in Madrid or elsewhere, as he has set to destroy the formula that had been in place for over a hundred years,” he said,
“The message he sent through his statements, is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it cancels and I save some money. ” And it bothers me a lot compared to what has happened for more than a year. We don’t play with this competition. Maybe that suits it.”
Kosmos has signed a $3 billion 25-year deal with the ITF to acquire the rights for the Davis Cup Finals.
Davis Cup Finals In Doubt, Admits Gerard Pique
The Kosmos founder explains why he isn’t too optimistic about the team event going ahead later this year.
The chances of this year’s Davis Cup Finals taking place are still up in the air with one of the key figures involved in the competition openly saying that he is ‘pessimistic’ about its chances.
Football star Gerard Pique is one the driving forces behind the new format following a huge financial investment from his company Kosmos. Signing a 25-year deal with the International Tennis Federation worth in the region of $3 billion. Despite the significant investment, Pique admits that he has low hopes of the event taking place later this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All professional tennis tournaments have been halted since March.
“There is a lot of uncertainty, we try to be aware of what the government says regarding sports and to whether we can put spectators inside the Caja Magica,” Pique said during an interview with Movistar.
“I would say I am a bit pessimistic, because a Davis Cup without fans is difficult.
“I think that nobody at the moment has the certainty that we can put fans in or if it will have to be behind closed doors. As the days go by, I suppose we will have a little more clarity.”
Spain is currently in the process of relaxing some of their lockdown restrictions with tennis players being able to train at local facilities from next week. The country is following a four-stage plan with the hope that their premier La Liga football league will resume next month at some stage.
However, the issue for the Davis Cup is the limited number of fans that would be able to go to the tournament if it takes place. In more advanced stages of the plans, no more than 50 people can attend an indoor venue. Although the number could be increased by November, it will be a stark difference to 2019. Held at the Caja Magica, the total capacity of the premier court is 12,500 people.
Last year’s final saw Spain lift the title for the first time since 2011 after they defeated Canada in the final. The two teams are seeded third and sixth in this year’s draw.
The Davis Cup is scheduled to take place between November 23-29 in Madrid. The ATP, WTA and ITF will not restart their Tour’s until at least July 13th, however, there is speculation that the suspension will be extended in the coming weeks.
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