SAO JOSE DO RIO PRETO, BRAZIL: Under the attention of three-time former Roland Garros winner, Gustavo Kuerten, the Brazilian team felt inspired to open an important 2-0 lead over Russia at the first day of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-off.
On Saturday the favourites Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo may finish the deal to secure a place in the elite of international tennis against Alex Bogomolov Jr and Stanislav Vovk, who have never played together – indeed, it will be the first ever match of Vovk in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas.
The Brazilian crowd could not help but celebrate their nation’s best Davis Cup condition in many years.
"Now we have to keep focused. The crowd is right to celebrate, they really have motives to think we are going to beat the Russians, but there is still at least one more match and our team should think about the World Group only after this tie is won", alerted Brazilian captain Joao Zwetsch.
“It was a very good day for us. We were able to do our homework right in the first two rubbers. I am pretty sure our doubles team can make the difference another time tomorrow and leave us finally in condition to reach the World Group”, said Brazil’s No. 1 Thomaz Bellucci after his 63 46 60 76(4) win over Teymuraz Gabashvili in the second rubber.
Brazil’s last appearance in the World Group came in 2003, when former world No.1 Kuerten was still part of the team. Since 2006 every year the South Americans have reached the World Group play-off but failed at the final hurdle to return to the elite group.
“Guga is the greatest idol in tennis here in Brazil and it is always nice to have him on court giving us support. He is the kind of guy who always have something positive to tell us and we learn a lot listening to him. We hope we can give him this pass to the World Group”, said Bellucci.
Even the Russian team came to Sao Jose do Rio Preto feeling that this time they were not the favourites to win as they did at the same stage last year in Kazan. Without Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko, their No. 1 player became Igor Andreev, ranked just inside the Top 100 in the ATP rankings. And the pessimistic forecast was confirmed on day one.
Thomaz Bellucci closed the first day of play with a tough win in a match that went 3 hours, 18 minutes. The Brazilian No. 1 had some trouble during the second set and was not able to save the third break opportunity he faced from a courageous Gabashvili to relinquish the set.
“I really feel that I could have won this match. Definitely the third set was crucial for the final result. I lost my first game of serve with two double faults and two unforced errors and let Bellucci play too comfortably. I am really disappointed but I cannot take the blame, I gave my everything on court”, said Gabashvili, who has not thrown the towel yet. "In Davis Cup everything can happen. Of course Brazil is the clear favourite now, they have a better doubles team, but we are going to fight until the end."
The Russian could not keep the same consistency under the never-ending attack from Bellucci and the third set quickly slipped away before the victory was confirmed in a fourth set tiebreak. The local player nailed 49 winners during the match while Gabashvili could make only 14.
“I entered the court thinking about being very aggressive. I made to many errors at the second set but was able to fix that at the third and fourth sets. Against a player like Gabashvili it is very important to keep some kind of regularity because he does not make many mistakes”, said a relieved Bellucci.
Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva said he was prepared to play under the sun for five hours against Igor Andreev in the opening rubber of the tie against Russia. In reality he needed nowhere near that long. The Russian No. 1 felt an injury on his right shoulder in the beginning of the match and had to retire after two sets trailing 62 61.
“I had the same kind of injury in Madrid and had to stop playing for one month or so. Now I felt some pain before the match but those are normal difficulties for professional players. I did not think it was going to bother until I had to hit a high forehand. When you do not have 100% of conditions it is better to stop playing”, said a desolate Andreev.
The result was a big shock to the Russian side since they expected the 29-year-old Andreev, to beat Dutra Silva, ranked some 21 places below his opponent at No.117, to keep the tie close until the last day.
“I was ready to play five, six hours if I had to. We made a great preparation and I was always confident about the match. It was a pity Andreev could not play until the end”, said a happy Dutra Silva.
Dutra Silva recorded his third consecutive win since he started to play in the Davis Cup for Brazil and his first on Brazilian soil. “It was very special to play in front of this crowd. They gave me a lot of support and the taste of winning was certainly different.”
Dutra Silva had the complete dominance of the first set and when the Brazilian opened a 3-1 lead in the second set Andreev asked for the doctor for the first time during the match, feeling pain in his right shoulder. After treatment the Russian No. 1 failed to win a single game and soon decided to retire.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS) - 14/09/2012
Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) - 14/09/2012
Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA) - 14/09/2012
Marcelo Melo (BRA) - 14/09/2012