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Tennis News • Australia, Italy Joins United States In Davis Cup Quarterfinals As Zverev, Fognini Win Clinchers

Alexander Zverev of Germany reacts after winning the second set against Nick Kyrgios of Australia during the World Group first round match of the Davis Cup between Australia and Germany at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 04 February 2018. EPA-EFE/DARREN ENGLAND



By Ricky Dimon


“Anything can happen in Davis Cup” is a phrase commonly used during four weekends of each tennis season. And it’s common, of course, because it’s true.


By Davis Cup standards, Germany’s Alexander Zverev beating Nick Kyrgios on the road in Australia is not even that big of an upset. After all, just two days earlier, Cameron Norrie–a little-known Brit who recently played college tennis at Texas Christian University–came back from two sets and a break down against Roberto Bautista Agut to stun the Spaniard 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and level Great Britain’s road tie at 1-1. Norrie had never previously played a single five-setter and had never played a single professional match on red clay.


So, back to Zverev vs. Kyrgios.


Nick Kyrgios of Australia serves during his singles match against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany at Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, Australia, 02 February 2018. The Davis Cup World Group First Round tie between Australia and Germany runs from 02 to 04 February. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

The 20-year-old German may be ranked higher (No. 5 to No. 14), but he had been 1-3 lifetime in the head-to-head series with Kyrgios heading into Sunday’s proceedings in Brisbane. He was also coming off a five-set Australian Open loss to Hyeon Chung and just barely scraped past Alex de Minaur 7-5, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in Friday’s opening rubber. Kyrgios, on the other hand, boasted a 7-1 record in 2018 and had rolled over Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Day 1 of Davis Cup action.


None of that mattered on Sunday.


An inspired Zverev, maintaining momentum from the most clutch Davis Cup performance of his career against de Minaur, took advantage of a slightly-injured Kyrgios to dominate 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2 and send the Germans through to the quarterfinals of tennis’ annual team competition. The 22-year-old Aussie struggled with an apparent elbow injury that relegated his serve to a shadow of the lethal weapon it had been against Struff.


“[Zverev] played great today,” Kyrgios noted. “I thought he served well. But my biggest weapon was not really there and that affects the rest of my game. It’s tough to go out there and not be able to put in your best performance. It just sucks. I had my eye on this Davis Cup tie throughout the whole Aussie summer.”


“Sometimes that’s how it falls,” Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt commented. “We’ve just got pick ourselves up. Obviously we’ve got to try and next time fight to stay in the World Group, which will be the next goal, and if we can do that again, we still have a young up-and-coming team with not that much experience, so I’d like to think that the next three to five years we can have a real shake at the Davis Cup competition.’’


This year, however, is Germany’s chance to keep going.


“(Winning) against a really strong Australian team it makes us very confident also for the next rounds, for the next upcoming years,’’ captain Michael Kohlmann said. “I think we showed that we have a lot of good players, a lot of strong players and all the four guys who are here.… They put something into the tie and I think that in the end we showed that we are able to go further than this.’’


Italy also went on the road and got the job done after four rubbers, as Fabio Fognini finished off Japan’s Yuichi Sugita following a five-set thriller. Fognini triumphed 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-5 for his second five-set singles win of the weekend and his third point for the Italians in the span of three days. The world No. 22, who also recovered from two sets to one down against Taro Daniel, won Saturday’s doubles rubber with Simone Bolelli over 7-5, 6-7(7), 7-6(3), 7-5 over Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama.


After four hours and eight minutes on court against Sugita (and one match point saved), Fognini’s total match time for the weekend ended at 11 hours and 41 minutes.


“Fognini played singles and doubles the first two days; today he was already tired and not sure to play,” captain Corrado Barazzutti explained. “But he’s a really great player–the perfect player for Davis Cup.”


“I think this was the toughest Davis Cup tie I’ve played,” Fognini assessed. “I was really tired coming from Melbourne, hot conditions, to here where it’s cold and snowing. I played with my heart. Now it’s time for recovery and then we will think about the quarterfinal when we are close to it.”


Italy and Germany join the United States and Kazakhstan–who completed three-match sweeps on Saturday–in the quarterfinals. The Italians await either France or the Netherlands, while Germany will go up against Spain.


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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