GRONINGEN, NETHERLANDS: The Netherlands will play in next year’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group after Robin Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Julian Knowle and Oliver Marach 46 63 64 75 to put their country 3-0 up against Austria.
An entertaining match that reached its highest level of tennis in the fourth set was decided, arguably, by a pair of frame shots and – particularly – a deflection off the net at 5-all in the fourth set. At 0-15 on the Marach serve, a Haase passing shot reared-up off the net and was thus rendered unplayable for Marach – the kind of luck that can separate two similar teams.
This ignited the beer-breathing student crowd that had already been egged on by Jean-Julien Rojer during the previous games. On the back of the enthusiasm Haase hit a stunning forehand passing shot to set up three consecutive break points. On the second of which, Knowle double-faulted to give the Dutch the break they needed. Rojer held to 15 to win game, set, match, and tie. Cue paper-plane throwing children, and group-hugging tennis players.
“This is where we want to be”, captain Jan Siemerink said, looking at the ITF Nation Ranking board behind him in the pressroom. “In the World Group, up against the strongest nations.”
Which country would he prefer? “Kazakhstan, I guess”, he said, after admitting that all of the eight strongest countries will be favourites against the Netherlands in the first round of the World Group next year.
Meanwhile, Dutch doubles player Jean-Julien Rojer preferred someone else, smiling broadly and wasting no words: “Spain. Rafa. Bull-fighting arena.”
The Austrian pair looked disappointed but thought that they had done as much as they could against a big-serving Dutch pair.
“They got a lot of free points on their serve and we didn’t,” Knowle said. “This meant we had to work hard for almost every point. We also didn’t hit enough first serves, which meant we had to take more risk on our second serves.”
Knowle was selected for the Austrians as their No.1, Jurgen Melzer, had to sit out the match due to a shoulder injury incurred in his five-setter loss against Thiemo de Bakker on Friday.
This sounded like good news to Dutch ears, but Knowle and Marach – both accomplished doubles players – were not the underdogs the slightly overconfident Dutch crowd expected them to be. They broke the Rojer serve early-on after Haase missed a routine smash and held the lead to take the first set 6-4.
In the first game of the second set, the Austrians couldn’t capitalize on a strange Haase service game which included four double faults and three aces, and they missed three break points in the third game. After that, the Dutch were in command. A strong return game gave the Austrians an early break in the fourth set, only to be broken back straightaway. It still could have gone either way, until some good fortune aided by the net cord and racket frame swung things in the hosts favour.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Jan Siemerink (NED) - 14/9/13
Julian Knowle (AUT) - 14/9/13
Jean-Julien Rojer (NED) - 14/9/13
Captain Clemens Trimmel (AUT) - 14/9/13