Friday was an exciting and surprising first day of Davis Cup quarterfinal action. Let’s take a look.
France leads Spain: 2-0 in France
Wha? Michael Llodra, bluntly described as France’s “oldest and lowest ranked player” on the Davis Cup website, took out World No. 10 Fernando Verdasco on Friday in four sets. It was the battle of the aging lefty vs. the dashing lefty, the widow’s peak vs. the flowing mane, the bulging pecs vs. the pointy elbows. Yes, I’m a Llodra fan.
Gael Monfils was pushed to the limit in the opening rubber vs. David Ferrer and came out the winner: 7-6(3), 6-2, 4-6, 5-7, 6-4.
Gael on his win:
“It was hard. I was winning two-sets-to-love and then he came back. I served for the match in the fifth and didn’t make it but I believed in myself and my skill. (Captain) Guy (Forget) was telling me to be like a boxer to keep fighting and I did.” (via DavisCup.com)
It’s not looking too good for Spain this weekend – except for that whole World Cup finals thing.
Croatia tied with Serbia in Croatia
Photo by Andrei Golovanov/Sergei Kivrin via DavisCup.com
Well, it wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows in Split. Via The Times of India:
Croatia’s fans booed and jeered and refused to stand when Serbia’s national anthem was played, and some chanted “Kill the Serb” and other abuse at Djokovic.
“We had expected the heated atmosphere before we came here, but I’m sorry that some fans behaved the way they did at the start of the match,” Djokovic said. “As the match progressed, things got a bit cooler probably because I was leading.”
Novak Djokovic held his concentration to beat Ivan Ljubicic 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-1 in the first rubber of this tension-filled tie. Ivan described the atmosphere (via DavisCup.com):
“It was strange to see guys, the crowd, whistling on Serbian anthem and the players and so loud on ours. You could feel the tension; you could feel the emotion so it was really difficult for me to play the first couple of games.”
Difficult, but not surprising. Ivan was quoted in the New York Times before the tie:
“I would like people to see this match as a normal tennis match, nothing more,” Ljubicic said. “But the truth is that it will never be.”
Novak Djokovic took the high road after the match, despite dealing with whistles and various disruptions to his serve:
“We are professional athletes and tennis players and we don’t involve politics in sport. We want to perform our best four the country and win; that’s what I did today and in the end I got a nice appreciation from the crowd for what I have done today so this is what I remember from the match.”
Wonder if the Croatians were tougher on Nole than the New Yorkers. . .
Marin Cilic dealt with the pressure and Viktor Troicki, evening things for the home team with his 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 victory in the second rubber.
Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic via DavisCup.com
Assuming the Serbs win the doubles – it’s Dodig/Veic vs. Tipsarevic/Zimonjic on Saturday, Marin will face an excruciating kind of pressure (call it the home court disadvantage) in Sunday’s fourth rubber.
Russia tied with Argentina in Russia
There’s no other explanation – David Nalbandian was born to play Davis Cup. Currently ranked 153 in the world and playing his first match in three months, the Argentine still managed to beat Nikolay Davdenko in straight sets in Moscow.
Mikhail Youzhny kept things interesting by taking out Leonardo Mayer in the second rubber.
Hey, wait a minute!
Photo by Golovanov/Kivrin via DavisCup.com
Photographer: Golovanov/Kivrin via DavisCup.com
“If you don’t shape up, Kolya, I’m subbing Marat!”
Czech Republic leads Chile 2-0 in Chile
The Czechs without Berdych and Stepanek were better than the Chileans without Gonzalez on Friday. Ivo Minar took out Nico Massu and Jan Hajek beat Paul Capdeville.