NEUCHATEL, SWITZERLAND: Despite a huge discrepancy in quality, according to the rankings - something that counts for little when it comes to Davis Cup, of course - Ecuador did themselves proud in this World Group play-off against 12th ranked Switzerland, never more so than in Saturday’s doubles, which eventually went Switzerland’s way and with it the tie, but it so very nearly went to a third day.
When Stanislas Wawrinka and Michael Lammer - playing together for the first time in any competition - forged a two sets to love lead it looked as if Switzerland would be winning this tie in double quick time. However, the two 21-year-old Ecuadorians, Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz are obviously made of stern stuff and staved off three match points in the fourth set to take the tie to a fifth set in which they were a break up before eventually succumbing 63 64 36 67(7) 64.
After the tortuous seven-hour long doubles defeat that Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli suffered at the hands of Czech Republic in February that cost the Swiss dearly, Severin Luthi, the captain, was not about to suffer again in the pivotal rubber. He was spot on with his selection in Friday’s singles when he went with Chiudinelli instead of the indisciplined Henri Laaksonen and he got it right again here when he promoted the 31-year-old Lammer in place of Chiudinelli alongside the world class Wawrinka.
They had to do it the hard way but they got there in the end and it was fitting that Lammer, whose Davis Cup record hitherto had read five defeats in five singles, should hit the winning shot – a backhand volley at the net right at the feet of Gomez.
“I hoped that we could go through in three sets, but I knew it was going to be difficult,” said Luthi. “I saw that Stan was struggling, maybe physically, he was tired a little bit. At the end it was an amazing match and a good end for us.”
Just as in the singles, one felt that so long as the flesh was willing, Wawrinka, the recent US Open semifinalist, always had an extra gear to call upon if needed. An indication of this was his response to Ecuador forcing a break point when he was serving for the second set: a 140 mph ace followed by another service winner.
It wasn’t until the second game of the third set that Ecuador achieved their first break of serve and although the Swiss retrieved the situation in the seventh game, they immediately broke back to love on Wawrinka’s serve which wasn’t helped by a double fault. Breaks were exchanged before the fourth set went to a tiebreak in which three times Switzerland were on the brink of victory only for Ecuador to extricate themselves each time and take the match to a fifth and final set when Gomez dissected the Swiss pair with a volley at the net.
Gomez staved off break points on his serve in the fifth game – three of them - but couldn’t repeat the feat in the ninth. Had Quiroz, a junior French and US Open doubles champion, managed to hold after the Ecuadorians had won the first eight points of the final set to take a 2-0 lead things might have been different. When the end finally came for them after three hours and 35 minutes, Raul Viver, their long-standing captain, looked overwhelmed with pride at the resilience shown by his young charges, but manfully resisted the urge to hug them.
“At 2-0 down in the tie and 2-0 down in sets many guys would have said, ‘Okay, that’s it, we’ve lost, they have Wawrinka, they’re a strong team, but no, they kept on fighting,” said Viver.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Raul Viver (ECU) - 14/09/2013
Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz (ECU) - 14/09/2013
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) - 14/09/2013
Michael Lammer (SUI) - 14/09/2013
Captain Severin Luthi (SUI) - 14/09/2013