WIENER NEUSTADT, AUSTRIA: If nothing else the end came mercilessly swiftly for the injured Russian Bear. Looking much more like the player who rose to No. 8 in the rankings last year Jurgen Melzer despatched Alex Bogomolov Jr in straight sets to put Austria into the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas for the first time in 17 years.
There they will play Spain away, which seems a harsh reward, but Clemens Trimmel’s team is not without hope.
Right up until the last moment no-one could say with any certainty who Shamil Tarpischev would select for the opening singles on day three. Mikhail Youzhny, their No. 1 who had served at three-quarter speed in the doubles because of a shoulder injury, was seen warming up outside the locker rooms beforehand and Nikolay Davydenko, still trying to rediscover his game, had had his moments in Russia’s doubles success.
In the event, the Russian captain plumped for the new boy Bogomolov, who only became eligible to play for his native country three months ago; he lives in Miami, Florida. Clearly the hope was that he might recapture the excellent hard court form he showed in 2011 when he raced 133 places up the rankings to No. 34, beating such luminaries as Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, both in straight sets, on North American hard courts.
Bogomolov, who was told afterwards that he was now “officially” on the team, had disappointed massively on his Davis Cup debut in the singles on Friday but here he found Melzer just too good for him and the Austrian No. 1 ran out an easy 62 64 61 winner in just one hour 42 minutes.
“I think it was one-way traffic,” said Melzer, “which surprised me a little bit because I think he’s a great player, but I just dominated him after the first three points when he hit three winners. It was close to the performances I had when I was top 10 and I’m really happy for the team that we made it.
"Giving Austria the chance to play a quarterfinal against Spain, that was our goal, that’s what we’ve been working for for so many years. We always said we have a chance, we have a chance playing at home but never really took it. This time we executed it perfectly."
It was important that Austria won the tie in this fourth rubber because they could not have been certain of how Andreas Haider-Maurer, ranked 127 in the world, would have handled the pressure in his first tie on home soil let alone the steadiness of someone like Igor Kunitsyn or even a half-fit Youzhny in the deciding rubber. As it turned out he lost a decently contested dead rubber to Kunitsyn 64 46 76(4).
Not that anyone should doubt him after the way he confidently over-powered Bogomolov in Friday’s singles, but it does remain a bit of a teaser and one to nag at the Russians on their journey home.
So the two-time champions had suffered the same fate as last year – first round elimination. Had they won they would have been at home to Spain.
Only for a brief moment, perhaps just the opening three games, did Bogomolov raise hopes that he might have the confidence to spring a small surprise and take this to a deciding rubber – after all, he is ranked six places higher than Melzer whose ranking fell away in the second half of 2011.
Bogomolov, whose long shorts seem to accentuate his lack of height, had three break points in the opening game which Melzer did well to hold and then the Russian broke him in the third game.
Unfortunately for him, that was the peak of his performance. Thereafter Melzer - his weight of ground strokes proving too much for his opponent - took a hold of the match and never let go, the 30-year-old mainstay of Austrian tennis recording his ninth singles win in his last 11 rubbers.
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) - 12/02/2012
Captain Clemens Trimmel (AUT) - 12/02/12
Alex Bogomolov Jr (RUS) - 12/02/2012
Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) - 12/02/2012