Romania’s captain Andrei Pavel can start planning for World Group tennis in 2011 after his doubles team of Victor Hanescu and Horia Tecau put their nation into an unbeatable 3-0 lead in their World Group play-off with Ecuador in Bucharest.
The home team combined superbly in front of a noisy crowd at the Centrul National de Tenis to completely outclass the visitors’ first-time pairing of Giovanni Lapentti and Ivan Endara 62 62 62 to add to Friday’s two singles victories from Hanescu and Adrian Ungur.
Any pairing would have been tested by the likes of Hanescu and Tecau on the day, the latter having won five ATP doubles titles this year, with a ranking of No.18 in the world as well as a recent runners-up spot at Wimbledon alongside Sweden’s Robert Lindstedt.
But when Ecuador’s most experienced player, Nicolas Lapentti, decided his problematic knee would rule him out of day two’s action it was always going to be a tall order for the younger Lapentti brother and Endara, who was playing only his second Davis Cup by BNP Paribas doubles rubber.
Romania race to an early lead
And so it proved, almost from the first point. Hanescu and Tecau dominated from the opening game, breaking Lapentti to 15 before taking Endara’s first service game as well, to quickly open up a 4-0 advantage.
Hanescu, at 6ft 6”, and teammate Tecau, himself 6ft 4”, were quite literally towers of strength. Powerful on serve and rock solid on return, they breezed through the remainder of a quickfire first set, losing a total of just four points on their own deliveries.
The visitors had a brief window of opportunity early in the second set when they engineered three break points with Hanescu at 0-40 on serve in game four, but the world No.54 quickly snuffed out the threat to level at 2-2.
That escape act sparked a Romanian charge that saw Hanescu and Tecau rattle off five games in succession, a passage of play that earned them the set and effectively ended the contest. They broke Lapentti thanks to some accurate, dipping returns for a 3-2 lead and took Endara’s serve in game seven.
The visitors were running out of ideas and it was another five-game winning streak from the Romanians that did the damage in the third. Endara’s tactics of refusing to serve and volley were exposed once more when he was broken in the third game and Lapentti lost his delivery for a third time a few minutes later.
Endara managed to delay the inevitable at least for a few moments when he saved a match point on serve at 1-5, but Hanescu ensured the Romanian fans were soon celebrating a one-sided victory when he held to wrap the contest up after just over an hour-and-a-half on court.
Tecau flawless despite flu
Both Romanians played wonderfully well, but it was Tecau who was the star of the show, at least in statistical terms. He lost just four points on serve during the entire match, and captain Pavel revealed that he had been suffering with the flu for most of the week.
“It was amazing, especially Horia,” Pavel said. “He didn’t feel so good this week, he’s been taking medicine because he had the flu. Victor is so steady. He is amazing, he is a player who should be in the top 20 all the time.”
Hanescu said afterwards that it was Endara’s lack of doubles experience that made the difference. “I think Ivan isn’t so strong in doubles. He can play good singles, but he’s not good enough at the net for doubles. We had an advantage because Nicolas Lapentti didn’t play today – it was a little easier for Romania.”
Ecuador’s captain Raul Viver could only congratulate the opposition on what he thought was a near-perfect doubles display. “They didn’t miss a ball and they hit some shots that were unbelievable,” he said. “Giovanni and Ivan had never played together before and we knew the level of Hanescu and Tecau. They would have been tough for anybody today.”
If there is one positive for the visitors to console themselves with it is that with the tie now beyond their reach they can test some of their younger players on day three. On the team for the first time this weekend is Emilio Gomez, the son of 1990 French Open champion Andres, and the 18-year-old is expected to feature during Sunday’s dead rubbers. “Tomorrow will be a good opportunity for him,” Viver said.