ULM, GERMANY: Florian Mayer produced the standout performance on day one of Germany’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off against Brazil, crushing Brazil’s No. 1 Thomaz Bellucci to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
Brazil captain Joao Zwetsch had singled out Bellucci’s second-rubber showdown with Mayer as the key to his team’s chances of victory in Germany after a tough opening rubber for Rogerio Dutra Silva against Philipp Kohlschreiber, but after Mayer’s 64 61 62 rout in the day’s second rubber his team now have to win all three remaining matches to stay in the World Group for another year.
German captain Carsten Arriens admitted that after a tense start he began to relax following Kohlschreiber’s victory and was able to enjoy Mayer’s banner performance.
“Like the players, I was a little tense when we went on court,” Arriens admitted. “Step by step I got the feeling that the quality was good from Philipp, then Flo [Mayer] was really outstanding. He said it was his best Davis Cup match and I agree, totally, so I could sit back and enjoy the game.”
Bellucci, without a Tour win since July after missing most of the summer with an abdominal injury, lacked the firepower to hit through Mayer and failed to move the 29-year-old out of position often enough to assert any authority in the match.
In contrast, Mayer quickly established his dominance with a break in the fourth game of the match, his variety from the baseline and angled drives leaving Bellucci second-guessing himself in defence. Only when serving for the first set did the German falter, opening with a double-fault that set the tone for an error strewn game that offered Brazil hope – hope that lasted until the change of ends, when Mayer broke straight back.
With that a disconsolate Bellucci faded badly and found himself two sets down with little more than an hour played. A fifth break for Mayer at the start of the third sealed the end of the Brazilian’s challenge, and the German ran away with the set to the delight of the Ratiopharm Arena crowd, reaching match point with a trademark hop into a backhand drop shot before sealing the rubber in one hour 29 minutes.
“I’m very happy with my performance,” Mayer said. “Thomaz had his chance when he broke me at 5-4 but I played an unbelievable set point, then I raised my level again. Maybe he also felt a little bit down [after that], but that was the key.”
Kohlschreiber was made to work for the win in his first encounter with Dutra Silva. The world No. 134 arrived with a reputation as a fighter on court and pushed the German in the second set before falling 63 75 64.
“I played very solid in my service games – maybe I was a little too loose in my return games during the second set, with the tension and the noise. But I was very focused."
Like Arriens, Kohlschreiber admitted that he felt the tension of playing in front of his home crowd early on in his match.
“Starting from Monday, you come here and work on the court when it’s empty, then finally you come on Friday and there’s a nice crowd, it’s very noisy and you see the flags, the team behind you all hoping you can do well – you really want to perform and make the point for your team.”
The German No. 1 got the tie off to the perfect start for the hosts, stepping in to pin Dutra Silva back with a barrage of deep drives and attacking the net as he raced out to a 4-0 lead.
Dutra Silva lived up to his reputation and switched to an early-strike policy that gave him a foothold in the match. It was too late to rescue the opener but the 29-year-old was far more solid in a tense second set, which reached 5-5 before either player could muster a break point.
Only a touch of magic could separate the duo, and it came from the German. He drew Dutra Silva in with a short sliced backhand and loaded his next backhand with enough topspin to send it bombing into the feet of the onrushing Brazilian. That set up the only break of the set, which Kohlschreiber sealed with a gorgeous drop shot to bring the crowd to its feet.
An early break in the third put Kohlschreiber back in control, and while Dutra Silva prevented him from claiming a second in the seventh game there was little he could do to stop Germany from claiming the first rubber of the tie, sealing victory in two hours and four minutes.
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Captain Carsten Arriens (GER) - 13/09/2013
Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) - 13/09/2013
Florian Mayer (GER) - 13/09/2013
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) - 13/09/2013
Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA) - 13/09/2013