Australia, China P.R, Japan and Uzbekistan will all be battling for a place in September’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-offs, after the Asia/Oceania Group I first round ties came to a close on Sunday.
Philippines couldn’t bank on a second consecutive 0-2 comeback to defeat Japan, falling 3-1 in Cebu, while China edged Chinese Taipei 3-2 in a decisive fifth rubber in Shanghai. Uzbekistan had been the first team through to the second round in July, after securing an easy 3-0 unassailable victory over New Zealand in Saturday’s doubles. Australia hasn’t been in action having gained a bye.
China clinches fifth rubber win
The world No. 42 from Chinese Taipei, Yen-Hsun Lu, the highest-ranked player on court at the Shanghai Xian Xia Tennis Center, gave his all over the weekend. After suffering a shock five-set defeat to 368-ranked Di Wu on Friday, the 27-year-old recouped to win the doubles and his reverse singles match on Sunday to level the scoreline at 2-2. It was a good confidence boost for Lu, having failed to win a single match on the 2011 tour before this tie.
Lu defeated Mao-Xin Gong an emphatic 61 62 62 in the battle of the No. 1s, making way for former junior No. 1 Tsung-Hua Yang to attempt to close out what would be an incredible result for the Taiwanese. The 19 year-old had been called on to play all three days, and it was perhaps just too much, with China’s hero Di Wu putting paid to any ideas of a recovery for Chinese Taipei and winning 63 62 26 60.
China, who is this year bidding to reach the World Group play-offs for the first time since 1990, will first have to defeat Australia in the next round to keep those dreams alive. The two nations will have their first meeting for 87 years so they certainly can’t look back on recent history for any sort of advice. For Australia, this will be the team’s first outing under the guidance of new Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter.
Japans closes out victory
Japan had ended Friday 2-0 up and in confident mood, but the tenacity of the Philippine team and the vocal crowd dressing the outdoor clay court had helped that gap narrow, thanks to a straight-sets doubles win for Treat Huey and Cecil Mamiit.
The 34-year-old Mamiit, also team captain for the weekend, returned on Sunday with the task of levelling the tie. At two sets down against Go Soeda, he came up with a late fightback in muggy conditions to take the third set 63, but ran out of gas against his 26-year-old opponent, falling 76(5) 62 36 63 in 3 hours 38 minutes.
Japan will host Uzbekistan in its second round tie and will be hoping to have the force of current world No. 62 Kei Nishikori on the team. The rising star has been on the comeback from a long injury lay-off, but will be a key factor should Uzbekistan bring world No. 54 Denis Istomin and his 17-4 Davis Cup singles record once again in its artillery.
New Zealand salvages pride
The atmosphere was lighter in the Uzbek city of Namangan. With the hosts already through to the next round, Istomin and teammate Farrukh Dustov were handed a rest on Sunday, and the remaining teammates were given a chance to enjoy the occasion.
New Zealand’s Artem Sitak, playing his first ever Davis Cup tie, made up for the baptism of fire he endured at the hands of Istomin on Friday, by winning the first of the best-of-three-set reverse singles 61 67(2) 63. Then Michael Venus further closed the gap by defeating Vaja Uzakov 63 60 to end the weekend with a respectable 3-2 scoreline.