Spain upset No. 3-seeded Britain who was without Andy Murray, Germany ousted No. 6 Australia, Kazakhstan upset No. 5 Switzerland who was without Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka, and the U.S. beat No. 7 Serbia who was missing the services of former No. 1 Novak Djokovic in upsets during round one of the Davis Cup World Group over the weekend.
Here is a look at the first round as it happened Friday-Sunday:
Kazakhstan d. Switzerland 3-0
Doesn’t Switzerland have GOAT Roger Federer and Slam winner Stan Wawrinka? No, they don’t.
Apparently Federer and Wawrinka are done with Davis Cup since winning in 2014, allowing Kazakhstan’s mix of tour and Challenger-level players to beat Switzerland’s mix of tour and Challenger players. In singles Kazakh Dmitry Popko beat Henri Laaksonen in four sets in the opener, followed by Mikhail Kukushkin defeating Adrian Bodmer in four sets. The unheralded Timur Khabibulin and Aleksandr Nedovyesov finished it off for Kazakhstan in the Saturday doubles, topping Marc-Andrea Huesler and Luca Margaroli in five sets.
USA d. Serbia 3-0
Due to injuries (Novak Djokovic) and lack of interest (Viktor Troicki, Filip Krajinovic), Serbia rolls over on red clay at home to the U.S.
Sam Querrey recovered from a set down to defeat No. 88-ranked Laslo Djere in the singles opener, followed by John Isner outlasting Dusan Lajovic 7-6 in the fifth. Americans Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson clinched it in the Saturday doubles, defeating Nikola Milojevic and Miljan Zekic from a set down in four.
“The talk that we had before the match was, ‘Expect these guys to play great,’” U.S. captain Jim Courier said afterwards. “And they did, in the first set, especially. [Harrison/Johnson] did a terrific job of staying focused and making some changes, and trusting each other and getting to the finish line.”
Italy d. Japan 3-1
Kei Nishikori recovering from wrist surgery meant Japan had little chance against the veteran Italians in Morioka, Japan, despite some heroics.
Japan’s Yuichi Sugita upset Andreas Seppi on day one 7-6 in the fifth to make it 1-1 after the first day. Japan almost held a 2-0 lead but Italy’s Fabio Fognini was too much for Taro Daniel 6-2 in the fifth set. Fognini then went about some heavy lifting, winning the Saturday doubles with Simone Bolelli in four, then on Sunday clinching it in the first singles, defeating Sugita 7-5 in the fifth set.
“I think this was the toughest Davis Cup tie I’ve played,” Fognini said afterwards. “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.”
Spain d. Britain 3-1
An injured Andy Murray meant no chance for Britain on red clay in Spain, even with some breakout play by Brit Cameron Norrie.
After Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas defeated Liam Broady in straight sets in the opener, the Challenger-level player Norrie tied it at 1-1 after upsetting Roberto Bautista Agut from two sets down. From there the Spaniards put on their hard hats as Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez won the doubles over Dominic Inglot and Jamie Murray, then on Sunday Ramos-Vinolas tamed Norrie in four sets.
“I’m really happy,” Ramos-Vinolas said. “It was a really good atmosphere today. It was a long match, a great match, we both fought a lot. To finish like this is amazing, when you’re two breaks up and serving for the match. This is Davis Cup, it’s not easy to play like a normal tournament, but I think I did a great job.”
Germany d. Australia 3-1
In a tie headlined by young guns Nick Kyrgios for the home Aussies and Alexander Zverev for the Germans, Germany came into Brisbane and won on their singles prowess.
Kyrgios kept the Aussies in it on day one, beating Jan-Lennard Struff in straights after Zverev started the tie with a five-set win over 2018 Aussie breakout star Alex de Minaur. But the Germans rolled from there, on Saturday winning the doubles in five sets when Struff and Tim Puetz defeated Matthew Ebden and John Peers. Germany finished it in the first match on Sunday when Zverev beat Kyrgios 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2.
“(Zverev) played great today, I thought he served well, but my biggest weapon was not really there and that affects the rest of my game,” said Kyrgios who was dealing with an arm injury. “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, even when I was here in Brisbane I was waiting to come here and play and it just leaves a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth after the Aussie summer I had.”
Croatia d. Canada 3-1
The Croats defended their home turf over the weekend behind the singles play of Borna Coric and the doubles-only play of Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic.
Day one was tied 1-1 after Coric beat Vasek Pospisil in four and Canada’s Denis Shapovalov defeated Viktor Galovic in straight sets. In the Saturday doubles Cilic teamed with Ivan Dodig to defeat Pospisil and Daniel Nestor from two sets down 6-2 in the fifth. On Sunday Coric clinched it with an impressive straight-set victory against Shapovalov 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Belgium d. Hungary 3-1
The defending finalists Belgium stormed to a 2-0 lead after sweeping the day one singles when Ruben Bemelmans beat Marton Fucsovics in four, and Belgian No. 1 David Goffin topped Attila Balazs in straights.
Hungary showed some life in the doubles when Balazs-Fucsovics stunned Belemans-Joris de Loore 7-5 in the fifth, but Goffin restored order on Sunday, beating Fucsovics in four sets to clinch for the home team.
France d. Netherlands 3-1
France narrowly avoided a fifth and deciding match, closing out the Dutch in the first singles match on Sunday when Adrian Mannarino outlasted Robin Haase 7-5 in the fifth set.
The tie was 1-1 after day one when Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker straight-setted Mannarino, then Richard Gasquet beat Haase in four. France went up 2-1 after the doubles when Pierre Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut edged Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(2).
The April 6-8 World Group quarterfinals will see France at Italy, Germany at Spain, Kazakhstan at Croatia, and Belgium at USA.
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