37th Week – Davis Cup (SF + play-offs)

World Group – semifinals

Gijon (clay): Spain – USA 3:1

Rafael Nadal announced before the US Open that he would come back at this semifinal tie. He skipped it though, and it’s tough to say when he might play first match since his sensational Wimbledon loss. There are rumors he won’t play any match until the end of the season. However, it’s pretty clear that without Rafa, Spain is a favorite in every tie which is held on the home soil. David Ferrer is exceptionally solid on clay (16-0 in Davis Cup rubbers on this surface!) thus American giants had only illusive chance to beat him; the Bryan brothers are almost invincible in Davis Cup doubles rubbers (20-2 record), so the only serious question was: will Almagro prevail his opening rubber against Isner? He needed more than 4 hours, and 4 match points to respond positively on that. Isner didn’t endure physically again. In the 5th set he was very sluggish, and in the last game of the match made three childish errors at the net. It’s his fifth straight 5-set defeat (all this season). “It was very tough,” Almagro said. “I think he served really good. I didn’t feel very comfortable at the court when he was serving. But we are happy because it’s Friday and we’re 2-0 up.” Spains now leads 6:5 in DC confrontations against USA.

David Ferrer – Sam Querrey 4-6 6-2 6-2 6-4
Nicolas Almagro – John Isner 6-4 4-6 6-4 3-6 7-5
Marcel Granollers/Marc Lopez – Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan 3-6 6-3 5-7 5-7
David Ferrer – John Isner 6-7(3) 6-3 6-4 6-2
Nicolas Almagro – Sam Querrey (not played)

Buenos Aires (clay): Argentina – Czech Republic 2:3

A tricky tie for the host team since the very beginning. Argentines were weakened by an absence of injured veterans: David Nalbandian & Juan Ignacio Chela (a Davis Cup novice Berlocq  replaced them), with slightly injured Del Potro (wrist) and jittery Monaco, who entered the tie having a negative H2H record against both Czech players. In spite of troubles Argentina should have lead 2-0 after the first day. Monaco despite a 0-5 record against Berdych (0-6 counting their challenger meeting), over two sets and a half dominated his Czech opponent completely. “Pico” was leading 4:2* (30/15) in the 4th set, for Berdych it was a very similar situation to that he’d experienced six days before challenging Murray in New York; the difference between Murray and Monaco is huge though, the Scot has a short-term memory tennis-wise, Monaco hasn’t – he dwells on wasted chances profoundly, it cost him losing eight consecutive games in total! He reduced a double break disadvantage, but serving to stay in the match he displayed again way too passive attitude and the self-confident Berdych struck a few winners to get a 4-hour victory. They’d met in a Davis Cup rubber also three years ago and the outcome was almost identical then (Berdych won 6-4 2-6 2-6 6-3 6-2). Although Del Potro had worked little on Friday, he pulled out of the reverse singles rubber conceding Berdych’s class. DelPo’s substitute – Berlocq fought bravely, however, Berdych was manufacturing forehand winners all over the court including one on match point. He spent 9 hours 24 minutes on court at Parque Roca (4:02, 2:37, 2:45) – solid amount of time in front of hostile crowd who often reacts enthusiastically even after 1st serve faults of guest players. Argentina’s first defeat at home since 1998 (Slovakia). If Nadal doesn’t return to the Spanish team, Czechs will have reasonable chance to win Davis Cup this year at home in November.

Juan Martin del Potro – Radek Stepanek 6-4 6-4 6-2
Juan Monaco – Tomas Berdych 1-6 6-4 6-1 4-6 4-6
 Carlos Berlocq/Eduardo Schwank –  Tomas Berdych/Radek Stepanek 3-6 4-6 3-6
 Carlos Berlocq – Tomas Berdych 3-6 3-6 4-6
Juan Monaco – Ivo Minar 6-3 7-6(2)


Generally speaking it was an interesting Davis Cup weekend, just 2 out of 10 ties (2 semifinals, 8 playoffs) were concluded after two days: Brazil ousted Russia, advancing to the World Group for the first time in nine years whilst Belgium defeated Sweden. “To win the deciding point for the team is amazing. It’s really exciting for me. And I think it’s important for all of us – the fans, the federation, for us and for the captain – to be back in the World Group.” said Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium. “I really think we were ready to get to the World Group last year. Not many people believed us but we went there and almost won. We were just a point away. Just a point, nothing else. Now our time has come”, said 30-year-old Brazilian Bruno Soares, the current US Open mixed doubles champion. Last year Brazil as a guest in Russia squandered two match points to get the World Group as  Thomaz Bellucci was beaten in the longest match of the season by Mikhail Youzhny. This year, Russians exhibited much more weaker team. I’d say we’re in times of decline of Russian men’s tennis. Quick comparison of ranking of players who captured Davis Cup six years ago: Safin (No. 26 in ’06 & currently inactive), Davydenko (3 & 48), Youzhny (24 & 29), Tursunov (22 & 147), Andreev (91 & 96) – all veterans, this weekend only Andreev appeared, but suffered an injury which forced him to retire in an opening rubber. Sweden has considerably larger problems nowadays during Soderling’s semi-retirement. Sweden will be absent from the World Group for the first time since 2000, but in my opinion the former power has now a team potentially leveling Group II of the Europe/Africa zone. To be honest I expect Swedes being there in the next few years. Simply there ain’t promising youngsters in this Scandinavian country.  It’s tough to apprehend what happened to the nation in terms of producing good tennis players. There were plenty of them in the 80s and 90s. Today the highest ranked Swede (Patrik Rosenholm) is 437th in the world!
Roger Federer loves play-offs, perhaps those ties relax him after the US Open 😉 He’s helped his country to win a play-off tie seven times in the last eight years. When he missed the team in 2010, Switzerland lost  a play-off tie 0-5 to Kazakhstan, which relegated the Swiss to the Group I, just for one tie (against Portugal, Federer contributed then).
The Davis Cup spirit can dig out the best of some players. It’s been a case of 26-year-old Amir Weintraub [223]. The Israeli hasn’t even notched an ATP tournament in his life, playing mainly at the Futures level, but has beaten three Top 100 players in Davis Cup rubbers withing last twelve months. Last year he stunned Milos Raonic in four sets, this weekend he outplayed two much higher ranked Japaneses: Tatsuma Ito [67] & Go Soeda [53] in a deciding rain-interrupted rubber 6-3 7-6(5) 4-6 6-3, in  3 hours 23 minutes to secure Israel a victory over Japan in Tokyo. “I hurt my right hamstring in the third set. The break really helped me. I got treatment and was able to come back,” assessed Weintraub. “I knew I could not run much after that, so I started really going for it.” Weintraub has really nice game to watch, his way of moving and his shots remind me of Gustavo Kuerten;   it’s beyond me that a player with big potential has barely won 1 out of 8 matches in Grand Slam qualifying rounds. It’s not that he was struggling a few years with an injury, he’s been active each year since his professional inception in 2004… Cedrik-Marcel Stebe delivered a decisive point in a Germany-Australia clash as well. Lleyton Hewitt disappointed entirely not being able to get a tie-break in six sets he played against Germans, the former No. 1 may play yet from time to time a good match on faster surfaces, but on clay he isn’t efficient anymore, even facing average opponents.

 Astana, Kazakhstan – Uzbekistan 3:1; Hamburg, Germany – Australia 3:2;  Tokyo, Japan – Israel 2:3; Brussels, Belgium – Sweden 5:0; Montreal, Canada – South Africa 4:1; Sao Jose do Rio Preto, Brazil – Russia 5:0; Naples, Italy – Chile 4:1; Amsterdam, Netherlands – Switzerland 2:3
5-set barometer:
15-7 Tomas Berdych, 12-8 Nicolas Almagro, 8-5 Fabio Fognini, 7-3 Denis Istomin, 6-1 Kei Nishikori, 5-3 Paul Capdeville, 5-4 Dudi Sela, 4-8 Juan Monaco, 4-10 John Isner, 1-6 Evgeny Korolev
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