FRANKFURT, GERMANY: The message from Germany was loud and clear from Frankfurt as they dispatched Spain with surprising ease in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie at the weekend.
While perhaps lacking the marquee names other nations included in their teams for the opening skirmishes, the three-times Davis Cup winners showed that if you want to beat them you had better bring your A team.
For various reasons Spain did not and got punished, succumbing in the first two days and going on to lose 4-1 as Daniel Brands rubbed salt into their wounds with a 76 64 victory in Sunday’s sole dead rubber after Feliciano Lopez was given a walkover by Kohlschreiber – much to the disapproval of fans in the Fraport Arena who vented their anger about the shortened programme.
Spain’s new captain Carlos Moya was deprived of the likes of world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro and while he still arrived alongside the River Main with a competitive line-up it was not strong enough to beat a German side that could afford to leave world No. 12 Tommy Haas on the bench in Friday’s opening singles matches.
Philipp Kohlschreiber’s classy 62 64 62 defeat of Spain’s debutant Roberto Bautista Agut set the tone on Friday and then Florian Mayer backed up his encouraging start to the year with a crucial five-set victory against experienced lefthander Lopez.
The 30-year-old Mayer, full of confidence after reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open and beating Andy Murray on the way to the semis in Doha, let a two-set lead slip against Lopez in a thrilling match but recovered to win 76 76 16 57 63 and give the hosts a 2-0 cushion.
Germany captain Carsten Arriens then threw a surprise by pairing Haas with Kohlschreiber for Saturday’s doubles but his gamble paid off as the scratch pairing beat ATP World Tour Finals champions Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero 76 67 76 63 to clinch Germany’s place in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2011.
A daunting trip to France awaits in April, probably on clay rather than the fast indoor court that suited Germany in Frankfurt, but Arriens believes his side will be more than a match for any one.
Asked whether Germany are now contenders for their first Davis Cup title since 1993, he said: “Hopefully. The players are at their highest level of performance. Kohlschreiber and Mayer are more experienced than two years ago and more focussed, but we’ll see, France is tough and ideally I’d have liked to have another home draw because France have so many top players.
“But hopefully Tommy will be fit and we’ve got two months to prepare. This win has given us a lot of energy and we’ll be ready and you never know.”
Arriens was particularly impressed with Mayer’s performance in Friday’s second singles.
“Florian played an unbelievable singles, he saw that he has the ability to play tough in the fifth set. He showed a different side of him. That was great to see. And Philipp did exactly what we talked about before. It was great to be part of it.”
On paper it looked like a tough ask for Moya's Spain although but for a few points here and there things could have been very different.
Lopez played magnificently on Friday and after storming back to level the match and looked favourite to win until a couple of double faults at the beginning of the decider allowed Mayer off the hook.
Likewise, Saturday’s doubles could have had a different outcome. Spain had set points in the first set before losing it on a tiebreak and had chances in the crucial third as well before their resistance faded.
“I always try to be positive and I will try to take positives from this week even though we are very disappointed because we lost,” Moya said. “But my team gave their all.
“The German team was strong throughout the weekend and in the end it came down to four or five points in Feliciano’s match and yesterday’s doubles.
“Even today with Robert, at 4-4, 30 all in the second set Brands played a Tweener for a winner,” Moya added: “That more or less summed it up.”
After two consecutive first round exits Spain will need to re-group for September’s play-off tie when Moya will hope that he can call on some of his big guns.
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Captain Carlos Moya (ESP) - 02/02/14