For the first time in the history of Davis Cup all four World Group quarterfinals have been played on clay which suits beautifully to the spring season of the year when all best players in the world after Indian Wells-Miami combo begin preparing to the second Grand Slam tournament of the year in Paris. Because it’s the Olympic year, the quarterfinals were moved from July to April, two out of four last year’s quarterfinals were already concluded after the first two days, fortunately this year all ties were decided on Sunday (in the first round ’12, half of ties came to an end on Saturday).
World Group – quarterfinals
Marina d’Or (clay):Spain – Austria 4:1
Spain deprived of an injured/tired Nadal (but with David Ferrer , who didn’t play in the first round) was the biggest favorite to win a quarterfinal tie this weekend against an average Austria. The tie was initially going towards a devastating loss for the guest. During the 2nd set of the doubles rubber the rain came after the Spaniards had a break point to lead 3:1, and it helped the Austrian team significantly, they got a contact win after a tight 4-setter (set points saved at 5:6, 8:9 & 10:11 in the tie-break) – Peya, No. 18 in doubles, was the best on court, he was the only player coming to the net in his service games, especially his backhand volley worked very well. Ferrer cut the Austrian hopes dismantling an atrocious Jurgen Melzer , who couldn’t adjust his game to an unsteady ball-bounce, he was actually off balance all the time during both singles rubbers. 30-year-old Ferrer has never lost a clay-court match at the Davis Cup (14-0 record). “I’m really happy to have won both my matches and that Spain are in the semi-finals again,” said Ferrer. “I played with confidence and in the important moments I think I played better than him.”
Nicolas Almagro – Jurgen Melzer 6-2 6-2 6-4
David Ferrer – Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-1 6-3 6-1 Marcel Granollers/Marc Lopez – Olivier Marach/Alexander Peya 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-7(12)
David Ferrer – Jurgen Melzer 7-5 6-3 6-3
Nicolas Almagro – Alexander Peya 7-5 7-5
Monte Carlo (clay): France – USA 2:3
France without Gael Monfils, the United States without Mardy Fish, but it’s tough to say the teams were weakened by the absence of these players, taking into consideration physical problems of the former and a poor form lately of the latter. The tie was held on a picturesque venue at the Monte Carlo Country Club. There’s no reason to accuse the French federation for this choice despite the best French player (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) isn’t a clay-court lover. American guys aren’t either, and they skip the Monte Carlo tournament regularly. However, I’d say that paradoxically clay is a better surface for John Isner  than grass. On clay, where the ball-bounce is higher, the American giant has more time to use his powerful forehand from a comfortable position or surprise an opponent with a forehand drop-shot which applies efficiently. He was broken only once in seven sets he played during the weekend. “I don’t mind playing on clay. I feel my serve is good enough to hold on any serve,” said Isner on day one. “I’m very pleased with how I played today as I played exceptionally well… I put a good effort out there. I knew I had to go out and play my best. I’m glad I’m able to contribute to this tie.” Guy Forget has retired as a team captain, he was the captain since 1998, in the meantime won the cup in 2001, had it also won as a player 1991 (clincher) and 1996.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – Ryan Harrison 7-5 6-2 2-6 6-2 Gilles Simon – John Isner 3-6 2-6 5-7 Julien Benneteau/Michael Llodra – Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan 4-6 4-6 6-7(4) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – John Isner 3-6 6-7(4) 7-5 3-6
Gilles Simon – Ryan Harrison 6-2 6-3
Prague (indoor-clay):Czech Republic – Serbia 4:1
As expected, Novak Djokovic skipped this white-red-blue tie (national colors of both nations) being tired after two demanding American tournaments. Serbia without him in the squad may face a tough task against most of World Group teams mainly due to a doubles hole. Admittedly Nenad Zimonjic is one of the best doubles players in the world, but other Serbs aren’t reliable doubles specialists, they are rather awkward, even Djokovic who got teamed up with Zimonjic once in 2011, but didn’t win a doubles rubber against Sweden… The tie was highlighted on and off court by a Radek Stepanek-Janko Tipsarevic rubber. The Serb  wasted a 4:2 lead in the 4th set, then saved three match points in two games of the decider to clinch the rubber in more than five hours. He refused to shake hands with Czech’s captain Jaro Navratil. He stated afterwards the decision was caused by the anger at Stepanek , who allegedly shook hands in inappropriate way (according to Tipsarevic, only Stepanek’s middle finger touched Janko’s palm) and said a couple unpleasant words. The Serb wrote on his Twitter: “It really is a shame that a great tennis nation like CZE is represented by someone like him.” It’s Tipsarevic’s third win at the main level after saving a match point, every time it happened in a 5th set # ‘Tipsy’ came back on court two days later to suffer one of the most painful defeats of his career. He played three tie-breaks against Berdych (3 hours 45 minutes) and lost all of them although was two points away in the 1st, had a set point in the 2nd and led 6:3* in the 3rd tie-break! The Czechs have avenged a loss they notched to Serbia two years ago in the Davis Cup semifinal, Tipsarevic beat Berdych and Stepanek then.
Tomas Berdych – Viktor Troicki 6-2 6-1 6-2 Radek Stepanek – Janko Tipsarevic 7-5 4-6 4-6 6-4 7-9 – 3 m.p.
Tomas Berdych/Radek Stepanek – Ilija Bozoljac/Nenad Zimonjic 6-4 6-2 7-6(4)
Tomas Berdych – Janko Tipsarevic 7-6(6) 7-6(6) 7-6(7)
Lukas Rosol – Viktor Troicki 7-6(5) 7-5
Buenos Aires (clay):Argentina – Croatia 4:1
Marin Cilic  and David Nalbandian  spent ten hours (!) together on court in the first two days of the tie held on a huge stadium at Parque Roca (capacity ~14.500 spectators). On Friday, Cilic withstood two mini-match points at 5:5 in the 4th set to win in 5 hours 9 minutes (the longest singles match for both players), the following day Nalbandian saved a mini match point in doubles, serving on Cilic’s backhand at 3:4 in the final set, and the Argentines prevailed after the 4-hour-59-minute rubber. Karlovic helped them tremendously missing the easiest possible balls in the latter stages of the deciding set. Both marathons featured poor quality, number of errors was enormous. The exhausted Cilic couldn’t do anything against Del Potro, who like Ferrer skipped the first round in February. “It’s always amazing when you win a match and get the victory to go through,” said Del Potro. “We have a good team this year to fight for the Davis Cup and all the team are happy for this weekend. Of course he was tired, but he was ready to play and he’s a very good professional. But I was focused on my game, on my work, and I played a very good game today.” Argentina plays against Czech Republic in September at home, and is going to be a host in a hypothetical final against Spain too, perhaps dreams of winning the cup will be finally fulfilled.
David Nalbandian – Marin Cilic 7-5 4-6 6-4 6-7(2) 3-6
Juan Martin del Potro – Ivo Karlovic 6-2 7-6(7) 6-1
David Nalbandian/Eduardo Schwank – Marin Cilic/Ivo Karlovic 3-6 7-6(6) 6-3 6-7(6) 8-6
Juan Martin del Potro – Marin Cilic 6-1 6-2 6-1
Juan Monaco – Antonio Veic 6-1 6-1
5-set barometer: 17-13 David Nalbandian, 14-7 Janko Tipsarevic, 13-20 Radek Stepanek, 11-6 Marin Cilic