Nadal keeps Spain alive against Russia in Davis Cup Finals

Getty Images
0 Comments

MADRID (AP) Rafael Nadal kept Spain’s hopes alive, then Marcel Granollers and Feliciano López completed the comeback in the decisive doubles match to give the hosts a 2-1 win over Russia in the inaugural Davis Cup Finals.

Granollers and López defeated Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev 6-4, 7-6 (5) to seal the victory for Spain in a marathon series that ended close to 2 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) on Wednesday.

The top-ranked Nadal earlier defeated Khachanov 6-3, 7-6 (7) to level the series 1-1 after Rublev had rallied to beat Roberto Bautista-Agut 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (0) in the first match.

“It was a difficult situation for us,” López said. “We needed this win, otherwise we could be close to being out of the tournament. Now we are in a good position to advance.”

Although only one of the matches reached three sets, it took nearly eight hours to complete the series at the “Caja Mágica” (Magic Box) center court. Spain will be back in action on Wednesday against defending champion Croatia. Russia beat Croatia on Monday.

In the revamped Davis Cup format debuting this year, teams play only two singles and a doubles in each tie, with the group winners advancing to the knockout stage along with the two best second-place finishers in the six groups.

“The format makes things very difficult because every mistake puts you in a position that you don’t want to be,” Nadal said. “And losing that first match, we were under pressure.”

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Britain’s Andy Murray will make their first appearance on Wednesday. Serbia takes on Japan and Britain plays the Netherlands.

The Davis Cup Finals is being played in World Cup-style with all 18 teams playing in a single venue in the same week. It is the result of a 25-year partnership between the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos, a group co-founded by Barcelona soccer player Gerard Piqué.

Brazil star Neymar was among the more than 12,000 in attendance, which also included a marching band organized by Spanish fans that fired up the crowd throughout the matches.

US FALLS

The United States lost to Canada for the first time in the Davis Cup after Vasek Pospisil edged Reilly Opelka 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) and Denis Shapovalov defeated Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 6-3.

“Came down to a few points,” Opelka said. “Thought I did my part, played well, served well, and I put myself in a position to win. He was just too good.”

The U.S. had won all previous 15 meetings with their North American neighbors, though they had not met since 1965.

FRANCE WINS

Two days after clinching the doubles title in the ATP Finals, French duo Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut secured France an opening win.

Herbert and Mahut rallied to defeat Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5 in the deciding doubles match in Group A, giving top-ranked France a 2-1 victory.

The French duo squandered two match points while serving at 5-4, but capitalized on their chance at 6-5 to clinch the victory for last year’s Davis Cup runner-up.

The teams were tied after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga cruised past Uchiyama 6-2, 6-1 and Yoshihito Nishioka defeated Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-2.

Herbert and Mahut did not drop a single set in five matches at the ATP Finals, where they defeated Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand in the final on Sunday.

“We know we’ve arrived late from London, but the captain had a lot of confidence in our team,” Mahut said. “There was a lot of intensity in the win but we’re really happy today. This was a really difficult tie.”

ARGENTINA CRUISES

Argentina comfortably got past Chile 3-0 in Group C, with Guido Pella beating Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 6-3 and Diego Schwartzman defeating Cristian Garin 6-2, 6-2.

The tie was already decided when Máximo Gonz��lez and Leonardo Mayer topped Jarry and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo 6-3, 7-5 in the doubles match.

“It’s the end of the season but I think I played one of the best matches for sure of the year, maybe in my career,” the 14th-ranked Schwartzman said. “I think Guido helped me a lot to be more confident in this match and I played unreal tennis.”

KAZAKHSTAN WINS AGAIN

Kazakhstan also needed the doubles match to beat the Netherlands 2-1 and clinch its first away Davis Cup win since 2011.

The Group E victory came after Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik defeated Robin Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6 (2). Kukushkin had beaten Botic van de Zanschulp 6-2, 6-2, while Haase defeated Bublik 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

“I almost died there,” Bublik said, jokingly.

AUSTRALIA AHEAD

Australia beat Colombia behind Nick Kyrgios’ 6-4, 6-4 win over Alejandro González and Alex de Minaur’s 6-4, 6-3 victory over Daniel Elahi Galan.

Colombia had lost to Belgium on Monday.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him.

A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time, beating Australia behind victories from Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he downed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by rolling past Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the top of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates finally got to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is just so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had dropped both his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set loss in the semifinals to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the left-hander moved quickly around the court, setting up angles to put away winners while racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Auger-Aliassime then finished off his superb second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. He twice had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov dropped the opening singles match, and he replaced his weary teammate to join Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wouldn’t even be necessary. After his teammates poured onto the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced around in a circle.

Canada had reached the final only once, falling to host Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov for the clinching point after Auger-Aliassime had lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime having since surged up the rankings to his current spot at No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and finally added the Davis Cup crown to the junior Davis Cup title Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led them to in 2015.

Australia was trying for its 29th title and first since current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But it was finally time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card into the field when Russia was suspended because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we get the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and prove that we can do it.”

But Canada will be tough to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both already have been Grand Slam semifinalists and Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He won all of his four titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz in the previous Davis Cup stage in September, just after the Spaniard had won the U.S. Open to rise to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians into the quarterfinals, which they started this week by edging Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today – well not after the last couple of years,” said Pospisil, the team veteran at 32. “They’ve been crushing it.”

Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach Davis Cup final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
Getty Images
1 Comment

MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.