OROPESA DEL MAR, SPAIN: Spain came to Marina d’Or as the overwhelming favourite to win their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal tie against Austria and they didn’t disappoint.
With two players in the Top 12 against Austria’s one player in the Top 100, on paper it looked like a formality for the defending champions and in reality it was just that. The Spanish singles players, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, were a class above their opponents Jurgen Melzer and Andreas Haider-Maurer, cruising to straight-set victories and securing crucial points for the hosts on day one.
The doubles was a different story, however, and Alexander Peya and Oliver Marach really used Saturday’s rain break to their advantage. A set down when the heavens opened, the Austrian duo used their time wisely, reassessing their tactics and playing style and returned to the court to duly turn the match around.
Perhaps the experience of playing together more regularly on the Tour, a partnership which has seen them claim two ATP titles including at Auckland earlier this year, gave them the edge against Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
Austria may have clawed one point back but they still had a mountain to climb if they were to reach the last four for the first time since 1990. Melzer played much better in Sunday’s opening singles rubber against Ferrer, particularly in the first set, but he could not contend with the Spaniard’s solid ground strokes, relentless pace and dogged determination. Ferrer ran out the winner 75 63 63 in 2 hours 24 minutes to secure the vital third point for the hosts and set up a semifinal against USA.
Ferrer also scored the winning point when Spain took on USA in Austin, Texas in last year’s quarterfinal tie. The Javea-born player, who turned 30 last week, will be hoping he can be in such a position again come September. The likely surface is clay, where Spain - and Ferrer - excel. The world No. 5 has never been beaten in a Davis Cup match on clay and his two victories this weekend extend his record to 14-0.
More importantly, however, for a team who have won their last 23 ties at home, the five-time champion nation have home advantage. Victory this weekend moved Spain into second place on the list for the longest run of wins at home in Davis Cup history, behind Italy with 28.
“It will be a very difficult tie,” said Spanish captain Alex Corretja. “The States have beaten Switzerland and France at home this year so even if we play on clay they can be very dangerous.”
While Austria will surely be disappointed, they came to Marina d’Or knowing they had an almost impossible task ahead. They have plenty to be proud of, including progressing to their first quarterfinal in 17 years, and by reaching the last eight they have made certain of their place in the World Group for next year.
“We hoped that the matches would have been closer but we were not able to win one set at all,” said Austrian captain Clemens Trimmel. “We got one point which is good, not enough to beat Spain but we are not too sad. We will keep working and maybe in the future we will have the chance to beat Spain when they come to Austria.”
"Although I didn’t win a set in singles this weekend, it has been the best Davis Cup experience,” said Melzer. “I have been playing Davis Cup since 1999 and we have never got this far in the competition. We have to be proud that a country as small as Austria can reach a Davis Cup quarterfinal.”