Alexander Zverev leads the field in Davis Cup Qualifiers - UBITENNIS
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Alexander Zverev leads the field in Davis Cup Qualifiers

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Twenty-four nations will go head-to-head across 12 ties. The winning teams of this week-end ’s Qualifiers will secure their spot in the inaugural Davis Cup Finals next November in Madrid. On 18-24 November 2019. We provide some of the highlights of this weekend’s matches.

Germany vs Hungary

Alexander Zverev will be the stand-out name in the Davis Cup Qualifiers this weekend. The world number 4 and 2018 ATP Finals champion will lead Germany against Hungary at the Fraport Arena in Germany. Zverev will be joined by Phillip Kohlschreiber, Jan-lennard Struff and Peter Gojowczyk and doubles specialist Tim Puetz. Zverev, who will be looking to bounce back from his fourth round defeat at the Australian Open, has a mixed record of four wins and four defeats in his previous appearances in the Davis Cup. Germany is favourite against an Hungarian team which will not feature its best player Marton Fucsovics. Germany will meet Hungary for the sixth time in Davis Cup, but it will be their first clash in 41 years.

Kohlschreiber will play in the first rubber match on Friday against world number 371 Zsombor Piros. Alexander Zverev is the strong favourite against a familiar name Peter Nogy, who beat the German at Future level. Jan Lennard-Struff and Tim Puetz, who are unbeaten in the three Davis Cup doubles ties they have played together, will face Gabor Bosos and Peter Nagy.

Australia vs Bosnia and Erzegovina

This year’s Sydney ATP 250 champion Alex De Minaur leads the Australian team against Bosnia Erzegovina at the Memorial Drive Tennis Club in Adelaide. The team captained by Lleyton Hewitt also features John Millman, Jordan Thompson, this year’s Australian Open doubles finalist John Peers and Alexei Popyrin, who will make his debut in the Davis Cup after reaching the third round at the Australian Open. World number 47 Damir Dzumhur and Mirza Basic lead the Bosnian team. Millman will play against Dzumhur in the first match on Friday followed by the second round match between De Minaur and Basic. Peers and Thompson will take on Basic and Brkic in Saturday’s doubles match. The Saturday’s programme features two singles matches (De Minaur vs Dzumhur and Millman vs Basic).

Thirty-year-old Australian doubles specialist John Peers thinks that it is going to be a fascinating weekend of tennis.

“It will be a very intense tie. It will be interesting to see the workload of the guys making the switch from five sets to three sets. It will be the first time we have seen it at the very top level of Davis Cup, so it will be interesting to see how the guys handle that one, whether it changes their mindset if they play all the three rubbers. It could be a longer day on Saturday or it could be a quicker day”, said John Peers.  

 India vs Italy

A strong Italian team featuring 2018 Roland Garros champion Marco Cecchinato, this year’s Sydney finalist Andreas Seppi, Matteo Berrettini, Thomas Fabbiano and doubles specialist Simone Bolelli starts as favourite against India in Kolkata on grass. The Indian team capatained by Mahesh Bhupathi is led by world number 109 Prajnesh Gunneswaran. India scored their only win against Italy in their five head-to-head matches in 1985. The home team features Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Myeni, doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan.

World number 37 Seppi will face Ramanathan in the first singles match on Friday.

“Playing at home is an advantage for us. I have to try and stay aggressive and hopefully the team wins in the end”, said Ramanathan.

In the second match Gunneswaran will take on Berrettini who will make his debut in the Davis Cup.

 “It’s gonna be my first time and I am very excited to play. I played Ramkumar last year. So I know him quite well and it’s gonna be a tough match especially on grass”, said Berrettini.

In Saturday’s doubles match Bopanna and Sharan will clash against Berrettini and Cecchinato.

Italy won their previous Davis Cup ties in 1928, 1952, 1958 and 1998 and lost only one match on grass in Kolkata in 1985.

Switzerland vs Russia

A strong and young Russian team featuring world number 11 and 2018 Paris Bercy champion Karen Khachanov, number 19 Danil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Zhzhenov will start as favourite in the Swiss town of Biel against a Swiss team, which includes world number 142 Henri Laaksonen, Marc Andrea Huesler, Jakub Paul, Sandro Ehrat and 15-year-old debutant Jerome Cyrill Kim. Switzerland meets Russia for the first time since 2002. Medvedev reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open and won a set against eventual champion Novak Djokovic. In the first Friday match the Russian 22-year-old player will face Laaksonen, who reached the second round in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.

“I like the new Davis Cup format. It’s like blitz chess. We have the chance to win it”, said Medvedev.

Slovakia vs Canada

Two Next Gen players Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime plus Peter Polansky will lead Canada against Slovakia at the NTC Arena in Bratislava. The stand-out name of the Slovakian team is world number 40 and former Rotterdam champion Martin Klizan. Russia has not won the Davis Cup since 2006. As Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil will be absent and Daniel Nestor has now retired, Canadian hopes will be carried by a young team led by Shapovalov and Auger Aliassime. Shapovalov will play in the inaugural match against another young player Filip Horansky in the first Friday’s match. Auger Aliassine will make his debut in the Davis Cup against Martin Klizan in the second Friday’s singles match. An all- Next Gen team Shapovalov and Felix Aliassine will play in the doubles match against Filip Polasek and Igor Zelenay.

“I remember when I and Denis were part of the team that won the Junior Davis Cup, we had messages of congratulations from Milos and Vasek. We both said it would be great one day to be leading the team in the Davis Cup. The dream has become a reality and it’s great to have a friend in Denis alongside me this weekend”, said Auger Aliassime. 

Japan vs China

Japan will not feature Kei Nishikori, who is still recovering from the thigh injury he sustained at the Australian Open, but Japanese captain Satoshi Iwabuchi has named a talented team for the Asian tie against China in Guangzhou.

Japan includes world number 66 Yoshihito Nishioka, who won the Shenzhen Open last year, Taro Daniel and doubles specialist Ben McLachlan. Nishioka will face world number 262 Li Zhe in the first match. Taro Daniel will face Zhang Ze in the second rubber match. Japan is hoping that Naomi Osaka’s recent triumph at the Australian Open will serve as inspiration for this weekend’s Davis Cup match.

Czech Republic vs Netherlands

Czech Republic will face the Netherlands in a tie, which features a mix of young and experienced players. Jiri Vesely will face 22-year-old Dutch player Tallon Griekspoor. World number 130 Lukas Rosol will take on Robin Haase, who made his debut 13 years ago.

 “After Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek finished their careers we have to change a bit the teams with the young players. That’s why I bring two young players. They improved the last years very well. So I hope they gain experience with our team. I hope in the future they will come to the team”, said Czech team captain Jaroslav Navratil.

Brazil vs Belgium:

The Brazilian team captained by Joao Zwetsch will host the team against two-time finalist Belgium in Uberlandia. Belgium won all three of their previous Davis Cup ties with Brazil. The home team features Thiago Monteiro, who won a Challenger title in Punta del Este last week, Rogerio Dutra Silva and a very strong team formed by Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo. Belgium will not feature David Goffin and veterans Ruben Bemelmans and Steve Darcis, who helped Belgium reach two finals in 2015 and 2017.

Austria vs Chile:

Dominic Thiem will not feature in the Austrian team, which faces Chile on the indoor clay of the Salzburg Arena. Chile won all their previous three ties against Austria.

Thiem withdrew from the Davis Cup tie following his retirement from the second round match at the Australian Open. Austrian captain Stefan Kobek has named teenager Jurij Rodionov, who will make his debut in the Davis Cup in the inauguaral rubber match against Chile’s world number 41 Nicholas Jarry. Austrian Dennis Novak will face 22-year-old Chilean player Christian Garin. Austrian strongest hopes are set on Saturday’s doubles match, where Jurgen Melzer and Oliver Marach will play against Julio Peralta and Hans Podlipnik Castillo.

“Without Dominic we are a different team. He is a top 10 player and if you have him in the team it’s a different story, but we are strong enough to play against Chile”, said Stefan Koubek.

Uzbekhstan vs Serbia:

Serbia will travel to Tashkent to face Uzbekhstan on indoor court in Tashkent. These countries will face for the first time since 2009, when Serbia won 5-0 in a World Group play-off in Belgrade.

Dusan Lajovic will play against Uzbeki’ world number 424 Sanjar Fajziev in the first Friday’s singles tie. World Number 72 Filip Krajnovic will face world number 104 Denis Istominin. Viktor Troicki and Nikola Milojevic will take on Istomin and Fayziev in Saturdays’s doubles.

Colombia vs Sweden:

Seven-time champions Sweden will make a very long trip to Bogotà to face Colombia on an indoor clay court. Colombia will rely on one of the strongest doubles teams formed by Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

“It will be huge. It’s been our goal now to be in the World Group, but with the old format we were not able to make it. We played a play-off tie six times in 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, and we were always only a couple of points away in a couple of ties. For us it is a good chance to finally make it to the top level. It’s a big monkey on our back right now for Colombia as a team. I feel like to give that happiness to the crowd, to the country will be very good for us”.

 Sweden rest its hopes in brothers Elias and Mikael Ymer. Elias has won five of his last seven Davis Cup ties, while Mikael has won five of his six singles matches. Elias will play in Friday’s first match against Santiago Giraldo. Mikael will take on Colombia’s number 1 player Daniel Galan. Cabal and Farah will meet Sweden’s Robert Lindstedt and Markus Eriksson in Saturday’s doubles match.

“Of course, I would be lying if I denied that. It’s something we dreamed of since a young age. Seeing Venus and Serena Williams and Andy and Jamie Murray and watching Davis Cup live at the age of 10, sometimes you have to stop and remind yourself like: “Wow look how far we have come. Every time we put the Swedish shirt on our body it is always very emotional”,said Mikael Ymer.

Kazakhstan vs Portugal:

Portugal will face a very tough task against Kazakhstan, who have won 10 of their 11 home ties in Astana. The Kazakh team fields world number 52 Mikhail Kukushkin, Alexander Bublik, Alexander Nedovyesov, Denis Yevseyev and Timur Khabibulin. Portugal will be looking to reach the Davis Cup Finals after achieving their best result at this event in 1994 and 2017, when they reached the World Group Play-Off. Portugal’s world number 39 Joao Sousa is the highest ranked player to take part in this tie. The Portuguese team also fields Pedro Sousa, Joao Domingues and Gastao Elias.

“We are expecting a tough tie. We are playing away, so we are expecting a strong team from them. For them it’s going to be a tough one for us. We will prepare as good as we can, we will give our best and we will try to win”, said Sousa.

 

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Elise Mertens Edges Simona Halep To Win Maiden Premier Level Title

Elise Mertens won the biggest title of her career with a three set win over former world number one Simona Halep in Doha.

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Elise Mertens (@elise_mertens - Twitter)

Elise Mertens won her first Premier title in Doha after edging out Simona Halep 3-6 6-4 6-3 in a dramatic final. 

The Belgian played some aggressive tennis as she tired out Simona Halep to win her first ever premier-level title of her career.

After a long medical time-out which lasted about eight minutes since the last point, Mertens came back from a set and a break to seal a great title which involved beating three top 10 players.

Despite losing a gruelling final, Halep will move back up to world number two heading into next week’s Premier 5 event in Dubai.

It was all about Halep for the first set and a quarter as she dictated the rallies with some sensation backhand shots, using her movement well.

Although there was good returning from Mertens, she couldn’t break down a very good Halep who just looked in control of every point.

After four breaks of serve, the Romanian inched closer towards the title as she took the first set 6-3 in 35 minutes. The Belgian needed to improve her first set to have a chance of winning the title.

The second set started with a share of breaks as Halep looked in fighting-fit shape to seal her first title of 2019 after a great week of tennis.

Then came the major talking point of the match as Mertens took an off-court medical time-out as the match didn’t restart until eight minutes later.

That would be the turning of the match as the Belgian controlled the match from that point onwards with some aggressive backhands and some neat serving.

As a result Halep’s momentum had been taken away as she struggled to cope with the break and couldn’t find her rhythm back.

With many break points not being converted by either player the world number 21 struck in the ninth game with a break to love and converted her first set point in the next game to force a decider.

After a Halep medical time-out, Mertens broke on the first game and a crucially long service hold was the big boost that the unseeded player needed.

It wasn’t to be Simona’s day as a third break in the set secured the best win of Mertens’ career so far to lift the Doha title.

https://twitter.com/WTA/status/1096831044647600134

After a disappointing Fed Cup campaign for Belgium, Mertens beat Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber and Halep today to ensure the best week of her career.

As for Halep she will return to world number two as the emotions of last weekend and the brutal wins of Julia Goerges and Elina Svitolina caught up with her today.

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Petra Kvitova Praises Dubai Field As Svitolina Given Tough Title Defence

Petra Kvitova has praised the Dubai field ahead of another great week in the Middle East as Elina Svitolina prepares to defend her title.

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Petra Kvitova (@AusOpen - Twitter)

Petra Kvitova has praised the Dubai field ahead of a tough week in the UAE as defending champion Elina Svitolina is handed a tough draw. 

The Australian Open finalist has praised the ‘unbelievable’ quality that is on show in Dubai as nine of the world’s top 10 are playing next week.

While Kvitova may not be looking ahead to the title she could face 7th seed Kiki Bertens in the quarter-finals as the draw was announced today.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina has been given a tough path ahead of her title defence though as the likes of Donna Vekic, Garbine Muguruza and Naomi Osaka stand in her way.

Attending the draw ceremony alongside Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova praised the tough Dubai field ahead of the tournament start on Sunday, “Every tournament is difficult, and this [field] is unbelievable,” Kvitova told The National.

“We have so many great players playing here. Of course, it’s always tough to win a tournament and it’ll be the same here.”

The draw has seen Kvitova potentially face Kiki Bertens in the quarter-finals, with Caroline Garcia and Daria Kasatkina also in her section of the draw. As the prospect of reaching a third final in 2019 is not something to think about yet for the second seed, “It’s a long way to go so I’m not thinking of that.”

Meanwhile in the top half of the draw Elina Svitolina could face Donna Vekic as she faces a tough path to defending her title.

Other players in Svitolina’s section include Garbine Muguruza, who plays Dayana Yastremska in her opening match who beat her in Hua Hin a couple of weeks ago.

Also world number one Naomi Osaka awaits for the Ukrainian as the Australian Open champion looks to play her first tournament without the guidance of Sascha Bajin.

Here is the full draw with action beginning on Sunday:

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Dominic Thiem Edges Cuevas To Remain Unbeaten In Buenos Aires, Schwartzman Awaits

Dominic Thiem has extended his unbeaten streak to 11 matches in Bueno Aires after edging past Pablo Cuevas to reach the semi-finals.

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Dominic Thiem (@SectaDeportivaa - Twittter)

Dominic Thiem won an 11th consecutive match in Buenos Aires as he edged out Pablo Cuevas 4-6 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals. 

After a slow start the Austrian won 73% of first service points to seal a place in the last four as he made it 11-0 in the Argentinian capital.

In the semi-finals he will play good friend and doubles partner this week Diego Schwartzman, who comfortably beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

The other semi-final will see Roland Garros semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato take on Guido Pella, who saved match points against Jaume Munar.

There was a threat to Thiem’s unbeaten streak early on as his Uruguayan opponent got off to the perfect start with a break in the third game.

Struggling on serve and failing to create any break point opportunities Thiem surrendered the first set in 34 minutes to the world number 78.

However the world number eight adjusted tactically and remained focused on the task at hand as he took a 3-0 lead. Despite being broke back while serving for the set, the top seed broke straight back to force a deciding set as he looked a relieved figure.

The deciding set went in similar fashion with the only exception being that Thiem wasn’t broken back this time. After holding his lead from 3-0 up, Thiem served out the match to secure his first ATP semi-final of the season.

https://twitter.com/TennisTV/status/1096580571327799299

After edging past Cuevas, the world number eight will now play Diego Schwartzman in the last four in what is set to be a busy day for the duo.

Not only will they play against each other in singles, they will also team up with each other in doubles as they reached the semi-finals there as well.

The talented Argentinian defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-q 7-5 to reach the last four in his home country and will look to end Thiem’s unbeaten streak on Saturday afternoon.

The other semi-final will see Marco Cecchinato play Guido Pella with the action starting at 2pm local time.

While in New York the action starts at 4pm local time with Brayden Schnur taking on Sam Querrey and John Isner playing Reilly Opelka in the semi-finals.

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