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14 September 2013

Poland keep hopes alive


By Jeff Kavanagh

Photo: Andrzej SzkockiMariusz Fyrstenberg (POL) and Marcin Matkowski (POL)

WARSAW, POLAND: The Polish team were thrown a lifeline in their Davis Cup by PNB Paribas World Group play-off against Australia at the Torwar Hall in Warsaw today when their highly-rated doubles pair of Marcin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg defeated Australian counterparts Chris Guccione and Nick Kyrgios 57 64 62 67(5) 64.

Down 2-0 in the tie, following the straight sets defeats of countrymen Lukasz Kubot and Michal Przysiezny by Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic respectively the previous evening, Matkowski and Fyrstenberg started their Saturday afternoon match knowing that a win against the Aussie duo was critical if their team was to have a chance of making it into the top tier of the Davis Cup for the first time.

The Polish team’s quest to beat an Australian outfit themselves desperate to get to into the competition’s elite group of 16, having fallen at the final hurdle for the last five years in a row, had been made even harder by the late withdrawal of Polish spearhead Jerzy Janowicz before the tie even began.

Australian captain Pat Rafter, meanwhile, made a change of his own shortly before the doubles rubber, choosing to rest stalwart Hewitt and promoting the 18-year-old debutante Kyrgios to partner the doubles specialist Guccione.

Admitting the need to keep the 32-year-old Hewitt fresh for the final day of the tie, Rafter went on explain that Kyrgios earned his place in the team.

“He’s got a great serve, he’s got a great groundstroke game,” said the Australian captain of his young charge after the rubber.

The teenager, winner of both the junior Australian Open and the boys’ doubles at Wimbledon this year, justified his captain’s faith from the get go, winning his first service game to love and producing a fine forehand return to break the Poles in the fourth game of the set. The Poles soon broke back and, at 6-5 up to the Australians and with the hosts to serve, the set looked to be heading for a tie-break.

Kyrgios and his two-metre tall teammate, Guccione, had other ideas. Combining well at the net, they heaped pressure on already beleaguered Poles, breaking Fyrstenberg’s serve and taking the set 7-5.

At 40-0 down in the sixth game of the second set, things appeared about to get worse for the Polish duo. Matkowski and Fyrstenberg aren’t ranked 19 and 20 in the world in doubles respectively without good reason, however, and they were able to survive three break points to win the game. Buoyed on by their increasingly vocal fans, they broke the Australians’ next service game and went on to win the set 6-4.

Matkowski, in particular, was playing well, rocketing his serves and deftly dinking drop shots beyond the Australian players. His left-handed compatriot, Fyrstenberg, was providing more than able assistance and together the pair broke service games from both Kyrgios and Guccione in the third set to ease to a 6-2 win.

“We served well and we tried to put a lot of pressure [on the Australian pair],” Matkowski noted after the game.

Guccione, unbeaten in Davis Cup doubles rubbers coming into the tie, and Kyrgios handled the heat a lot better in the fourth set, both holding serve to take the set to a tie-break.

The Poles, who saved a set point on the way to the tie-break, were brimming with confidence and looked more likely to win both it and the match. It was now the turn of the men from down under to dig deep, which they duly did, winning the tie-break 7-5 and taking the match into a fifth set.

The arm wrestle between the two pairs continued until the tenth game of the final set when the experienced Guccione fatally double-faulted at break point, handing the jubilant Poles the match and the opportunity for their team to fight another day.

Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live

Marcin Matkowski (POL) - 14/09/2013

Mariusz Fyrstenberg (POL) - 14/09/2013

Captain Pat Rafter (AUS) - 14/09/2013

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