tennis

Australia down Slovakia to stay in Davis Cup World Group

Argentina move a step close to Davis Cup final after taking big lead over Britain

Agencies
19:34 September 17, 2016
Argentina
doubles win
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Sydney: John Peers and Sam Groth clinched the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie for Australia with a doubles win over Slovakia in Sydney on Saturday.

Peers and Groth were taken to four sets by the Slovak pair of Andrej Martin and Igor Zelenay after holding a match point in the third set.

The duo went on to secure Australia’s World Group status 3-0 in the 2017 Davis Cup competition with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/2) victory in two hours and 21 minutes.

“So much depends on the draw but we’re not there just to make up the numbers,” captain Lleyton Hewitt said at the prospect of playing again in next year’s World Group.

“We expect that we can go deep. This group wants to try and get our hands on the Davis Cup.

“It’s been quite a while now since we’ve had an opportunity to play in a final and I know from experience I’d love these boys to have that experience of going out there and playing for Australia.”

Teaming up for the first time in the competition, Peers and Groth were impregnable on serve, dropping only 18 points in 21 service games and did not face a break point.

They broke the Slovaks three times and looked to be steaming to a straight sets win until they had a match point at 5-6.

Slovakia then went on to take the third-set tiebreaker before a back hand put-away by Peers sealed the play-off tie for Australia in a fourth-set tiebreaker.

It was Peers’s first win for Australia after losing his only other rubber — a doubles match alongside current captain Hewitt against the United States in March.

The ‘dead’ reverse singles will be played on Sunday.

Australia only needed one more win after Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic won their opening day singles in straight sets on Friday.

The 15th-ranked Kyrgios shrugged off recent hip problems to whip through Martin 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 while the 21st-ranked Tomic completed a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4 win over Jozef Kovalik.

Australia, who lost to the United States in this year’s first round, will now extend their stay in the World Group to four years.

Meanwhile, Argentina moved a step closer to the Davis Cup final after Guido Pella beat Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund to give them a commanding 2-0 lead in their World Group semi-final tie on Friday.

The pressure had been on Edmund after Juan Martin Del Potro defeated world No. 2 Andy Murray in five sets to get Argentina off to a winning start following an epic battle on the hard-court of the Emirates Arena earlier in the day in Glasgow.

However, despite taking the first set on a tie break the 21-year-old had no answer to Pella’s power play as the Argentine claimed victory in just over three hours, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

With a final place against either Croatia or France in November at stake, Pella’s win leaves Argentina needing just one more victory from either Saturday’s doubles or the two remaining singles on Sunday to eliminate the holders and secure a fourth final spot in the past 10 years.

“I am very happy to get the second point for Argentina and the team,” Pella said.

“Juan Martin played an amazing match and I knew this was my chance.”

Edmund couldn’t hide his disappointment after the match.

“It is tough to reflect on it right now,” the 21-year-old said.

“I know where I went wrong. I felt fine out there and felt I was hitting the ball right but there were errors at key moments and need to get the balance a lot better to win.”

World No. 1s Great Britain haven’t defeated Argentina since 1928 and their hopes of ending that run took a blow before Edmund took to the court following Del Potro’s defeat of home crowd favourite Murray.

Kei Nishikori teamed up with Yuichi Sugita in a dominant doubles victory as Japan completed a 3-0 defeat of Ukraine to return to the Davis Cup’s top table yesterday.

The world No. 5 looked sharp as the Japanese pair ran out easy 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 winners over Artem Smirnov and Sergiy Stakhovsky in Osaka to give the home side an unassailable lead in the World Group playoff with only two rubbers remaining.

“The return was key for us today,” said Nishikori, who won bronze at the Rio Olympics before reaching the US Open semi-finals earlier this month.

“We had never played together before and we had to change some things during the match,” he added.

“Neither of us are the best net players but our groundstrokes did the job. The second set we were on fire — we made a lot of returns and they were struggling with their service.”

Indian coach Zeeshan Ali feels that hosting Spain in the ongoing Davis Cup World Group play-off tie with the likes of Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer playing in front of Indian crowds will provide a massive boost to tennis in the country.

Indian singles players Ramkumar Ramanathan and Saketh Myneni fought an uphill battle in their matches against Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer respectively on the opening day of the tie on Friday.

The 203rd ranked Ramanathan punched above his weight against Lopez, who is placed 26th in the world rankings, before going down 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6 in four bitterly fought sets.

Myneni on the other hand, was no match for Ferrer with the Spaniard easing to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Despite the lopsided nature of the contest, Ali asserted that hosting the star-studded Spanish squad is a positive move for Indian tennis.

“I think it’s great to have Spain over here. This is probably the toughest team to ever visit India. We hosted the United States back in 1994 who had Todd Martin in their squad, but I think the kind of an aura and the legend Rafael Nadal is, that did not happen before this. This is clearly the toughest one of the last three play-offs we had. It is great for tennis in India from a fan’s perspective to watch the likes of Nadal, David Ferrer and Feleciano Lopez play,” Ali told IANS.