When the first day of competition ended in the Davis Cup Group 1 tie between the Slovak Republic and Ukraine the home crowd had a lot to be happy about in Bratislava.
Martin Klizan, making his inaugural appearance as the No. 1 player on the Slovak team, won a live rubber for the first time in his Davis Cup career. Klizan delighted fans by beating Illya Marchenko 67 (4) 63 61 63 in 3 hours, 33 minutes.
The opening set was a real battle that lasted 85-minutes and went in favour of Marchenko. But the first set loss did not put Klizan off. He even held it together after Marchenko took a temporary 3-1 lead in the final set. Klizan, who recently won the Genoa Challenger, never allowed Marchenko another game in the match.
“Illya deserved to win the first set,” Klizan said. “I started a bit slower than I thought I would. For some reason I was feeling stiff, couldn’t hold my serve and made a lot of unforced errors in the tiebreak. Luckily, I could bounce back pretty soon and was playing better and better as the match was progressing. I felt more responsibility in that I should finally win a live rubber.”
Unfortunately, Pavol Cervenak, playing only his second Davis Cup match, could not keep the Slovak momentum going against Sergiy Stakhovsky. Initially, it looked like Cervenak might have an opportunity to insert himself into the match when he went up 3-1 in the first set. But he didn’t have enough to give against the more established Stakhovsky.
“I started in very promising fashion,” Cervenak said. “I was feeling comfortable and relaxed. Sadly enough for me Sergiy stepped his game up.”
The 63rd-ranked Stakhovsky showed why he’s ranked 100 spots higher than Cervenak in his 75 62 61 win that took one-minute over two hours to secure for Ukraine.
“Well I believe it was not a very eye-catching duel, I would say that it was more about the nerves,” Stakhovsky said. “In the end of the first set I managed to take my opportunities on important points while Pavol didn’t.”
Stakhovsky’s the guy that the Ukrainian team relies on to pilot them through a Davis Cup tie. Why? Because he tends to play for three points: two singles matches as well as he’ll be teaming with Sergiy Bubka in the doubles. Stakhovsky’s played Davis Cup for Ukraine since 2006 and this marks his 13th tie played since his first. The win over Cervenak increased his Davis Cup winning record to 14-7 in singles and 22-11 overall.
In another all-European tie, Finland and Poland are vying like the other nations to keep from being bumped down to Zone II status.
Finland’s Henri Kontinen, ranked No. 281, used the home crowd in Espoo to his advantage to outlast 176th-ranked Jerzy Janowicz 64 63 67(10) 63.
Kontinen’s victory set up his far more accomplished teammate – Jarkko Nieminen – to put Finland ahead 2-0 when Friday’s play finished.
Nieminen did not disappoint. He only needed straight sets – 64 64 64 – to get past Grzegorz Panfil to put Finland up 2-0 going into Saturday’s doubles match.
The doubles is where the Poles have a shot to shine. Recent US Open finalists Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski should have the advantage over Harri Heliovaara and Nieminen.
In Cebu, Philippines, the home team is banking on two factors working in their favour during this weekend’s play-off against Chinese Taipei.
Hope 1: That the Chinese Taipei team playing without their best player, 83rd-ranked Lu Yen-Hsun would make them a more vulnerable target.
Hope 2: This factor is based on some serious faith as they would like to think that Treat Huey can pretend he’s as invincible as Philippine boxing sensation, Manny Pacquiao.
After the first day of play Philippines were definitely hanging in there with a split 1-1 decision.
Ti Chen of Taipei gave his country the 1-0 edge with a 67 (2), 62, 76 (6), 63 win over Cecil Mamiit in 3 hours, 38 minutes. Considering the fact that Mamiit, 35, only plays Davis Cup – he no longer has a world ranking – he put in a pretty impressive effort. Until last month, Mamiit was traveling with Maria Sharapova as her hitting partner.
Huey might not live up to Pacquiao’s legendary status, but he certainly delivered. He put forth a 64 64 63 win over Jimmy Wang in 2 hours, 14 minutes to even the score of the tie 1-1.
In the Americas Zone, the tie between Ecuador and Mexico experienced a setup change even before the action began. Mexican Cesar Ramirez was forced to bench himself because of a throat infection and fever. His spot in the draw was taken by Miguel Gallardo Valles.
The substitute didn’t fare that well, falling to Julio Cesar Campozano 62 46 63 62.
"(I’m) really pleased with the performance of today, I did it right and necessary,” Campozano said. “Physically I felt very well and mentally with good intensity, I could finish physically very fresh, and that is very important for the rest of the series. I felt very solid on the court."
Gallardo Valles said that days of training at the Guayaquil site did not help with his performance.
"It was a difficult match, the first set I started very badly, not got many balls,” Gallardo Valles said. “July was getting them, (the) heat was also hard. We have ten days here and the truth is that no day (was) so hot as today.”
Ivan Endara closed the day out by putting Ecuador up 2-0 over Mexico, but the advantage didn’t come easy. Endara had a lengthy 4 hour, 8 minute battle with Mexico’s Daniel Garza to seal the match in Ecuador’s favour, 67 (4) 76 (0) 64 26 64.