It was an exciting first round weekend for the Davis Cup World Group, with eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals (setting up yet more intriguing match ups come July’s quarterfinals.)
Here’s how everything turned out:
SERBIA def. U.S.A. 3-2
The Serbs started strong, gaining the 2-0 lead on Friday in Belgrade. But Saturday served up a couple surprises – some bad room service chicken curry sidelined Mike Bryan, forcing his brother to pair up with rookie John Isner. But it turned out well, with the Americans posting a 7-6(8), 5-7, 7-6(8), 6-3 win over Nenad Zimonjic and Janko Tipsarevic.
Interesting factoids from DavisCup.com: This was the first time that Bob had played doubles with someone other than his brother at tour level, while the withdrawal robbed Mike of the chance to equal John McEnroe’s streak of 21 consecutive Davis Cup ties.
Isner was put into the hero’s position again on Sunday, playing the must-win fourth rubber vs. Novak Djokovic. And he did his best to play the part, stretching Nole to five excruciating sets and over four hours on court. Novak eventually triumphed, 7-5 3-6 6-3 6-7(6) 6-4 but not before he smashed some racquets, earned a point penalty, and let the crowd into his own personal hell on court. Here’s some footage of the final angst/celebration:
This is a strong win for Nole, who has posted decent results lately but has had problems pulling through these kind of emotional and physical tests (vs. Tsonga in Melbourne, for example.)
And Isner has proven himself in his rookie effort:
“This one is a loss that I can be proud of,” Isner said. “Any time that I lose a match, I want to be able to say that I can be proud of how I played. I can’t say that all the time, but today, I can say that. I can improve from this loss and learn from it.” (via USTA.com)
CROATIA def. ECUADOR: 5-0
After Ivo Karlovic won his five setter vs. Nicolas Lapentti in the first rubber, everything got a lot easier for the home team in Croatia. Marin Cilic won the second rubber in straights and the towering teammates paired up on Saturday to beat the Lapentti brothers in doubles. Their less-accomplished teammates were still eager to do well in Sunday’s dead rubbers, winning both. Afterwards, the 196-ranked Antonio Veic said he can’t wait for Croatia’s quarterfinal vs. Serbia.
“If we play against Serbia in my hometown Split, I could die a happy man after the tie should (Croatian team captain Goran) Prpic name me in the squad for what would be an epic duel.” Veic told DavisCup.com.
ARGENTINA def. SWEDEN: 3-2
If it’s a live fifth rubber, you want David Nalbandian playing on your side. And Team Argentina had him this weekend, Nalby’s last minute decision to fly into Stockholm proving wise. He beat Andreas Vinciguerra in four sets in the final, must-win rubber of the tie. Great news for Argentina, but Nalbandian fans will be sorry to hear that this effort wasn’t a great warm up for Indian Wells, where he has a wild card this week. He told reporters after the match that his leg injury is still bothering him.
RUSSIA def. INDIA: 3-2
Russia was guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals vs. Argentina when Mikhail Youzhny scored the final first-round blow vs. India’s Somdev Devvarman in Sunday’s first match. Apparently Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev celebrated a birthday this weekend – Happy Birthday, Shamil!
SPAIN def. SWITZERLAND: 4-1
Stan Wawrinka’s gutsy five set win over Nicolas Almagro in the first rubber of the tie left him depleted for the rest of the weekend. Coming back to the game after six weeks as a new father, and playing the Spanish on their home clay three days in a row, is not exactly the way to ease back into competition. David Ferrer emerged as the hero of the weekend, winning both of his singles matches, including the clincher on Sunday vs. Stan.
No idea – Rafa booty tribute?
FRANCE def. GERMANY: 4-1
With its impressive performance over Germany, a strong Team France looks forward to hosting defending champs Spain in the quarterfinals. Yes, they’ll be playing in July, but France says they’re scouting for an indoor hard court. Can’t wait!
CZECH REPUBLIC def. BELGIUM: 4-1
Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek form a potent Davis Cup pairing. They each won their first singles rubbers on Friday vs. Belgium and their doubles match on Saturday – all in straights and with two bagel sets. DavisCup.com was pretty brutal in its assessment of the match-up:
“In the entire tie, there was never a moment when the host nation (Belgium) seemed to snatch a chance, a solution or even a window of opportunity, let alone a single set or a match.”
and. . .
“The contrast between the two teams couldn’t have been starker. At times, the courtside feeling was akin to watching juniors facing pros.”
The writer stopped short of adding: “It’s too bad the Belgian Fed Cup team couldn’t be subbed in!” But I bet he thought about it.
CHILE leads ISRAEL: 2-1
Nicolas Massu and Fernando Gonzalez took the home team to a 2-0 lead over visiting Israel on Saturday (the tie was delayed a day due to the earthquake) but doubles experts Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram kept Israel alive with Sunday’s five-set win over Aguilar/Capdeville.
Israel’s team captain, Eyal Ran said before the tie began: “Our hearts and thoughts are with the Chilean people. That said, once we go into the court we will do our best to win the matches.”
Fernando Gonzalez plays Dudi Sela in the fourth rubber on Monday.
The women played one event in Monterrey, Mexico this week. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Daniela Hantuchova in the final on Sunday to win her first-ever tour title. Pavlyuchenkova’s first big breakthrough came about this time last year, when she made it to the semifinals of Indian Wells. At 18 years old, Anastasia is the youngest player in the WTA’s top 40.
Congrats to Pavlyuchenkova, but the big winner this weekend is the WTA tour, itself, for finally signing a 2 year extension agreement with sponsor Sony Ericsson. It’s no repeat of the $88 million, multi-year deal Sony Ericsson and the tour agreed on back in 2005, but there’s one upside: Sony Ericsson will no longer be the title sponsor. The WTA tour will actually be the”WTA tour”!
Via the AP, the tour says that the “net profitability” will be the same as under the prior deal but Sports Business Journal reports that the annual monetary commitment will be reduced by 40%. The Financial Times reports that the mobile phone maker posted a net loss last year of $1.4 billion. In reality, the deal is likely a downgrade, but still an impressive vote of confidence in this economic climate.