SAO JOSE DO RIO PRETO, BRAZIL: Thomaz Bellucci came back from two sets down for the first time in his career to level Brazil 1-1 with Colombia in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Americas Zone Group I tie on Friday.
In front of a partisan home crowd at the Harmonia Club, the Brazilian overcame Alejandro Falla 26 36 61 64 63 in a gritty battle that lasted three hours 58 minutes to keep the hosts’ dream alive of reaching the World Group play-offs after Santiago Giraldo had defeated Joao Souza 63 64 64 in two hours 40 minutes in the first rubber.
Falla started the better of the two, making the most of his opponents’ nerves, and stunned the home crowd by taking the first two sets.
The Brazilian comeback started in the third set when Falla made a succession of unforced errors, which gave the momentum to the home player. In the fourth set Bellucci kept knocking away at Falla’s defences, the Colombian also having to receive attention from the physio, and he just couldn’t keep up with the Brazilian barrage. Bellucci then broke twice in a row to take the match into a fifth set.
Nerves and emotions running wild in the fifth set
Both players were visibly exhausted in the final set, Falla more so than Bellucci, so much so that the Colombian was having problems serving.
With the local support in full voice, Bellucci began by breaking his opponent’s serve, but then failed to hold his own. Both players held before Bellucci broke again and consolidated with a hold to all but end the match as a contest. Without a rest, Falla was easy prey for the Brazilian who, without playing his best, secured a famous victory for the home crowd.
“Falla started playing really well and I couldn’t find a way to cope with his game,” said Bellucci. “He wasn’t making any mistakes, I didn’t feel comfortable on the court and for a while I wasn’t moving well. Fortunately, in the third set I went all or nothing. I started to take more risks and it paid off. The public was also very important in my comeback and I hope I can keep feeding off them to guide us into the play-offs.”
For Joao Zwetsch, the Brazilian captain, the home crowd had a key role in Bellucci’s victory, especially when he was two sets down. “I think the support of the crowd lifted him,” he said. “Bellucci wasn’t playing his best tennis against Falla, who was having a great match, very solid. Fortunately Bellucci found strength, from where I don’t know, and secured a sensational triumph.”
Giraldo makes light work
After an even opening, Giraldo began to build towards his victory with a break of his opponents’ serve in the fifth game and after that it was one-way traffic.
“The key was in the return of serve,” said Giraldo. Souza was serving really well, but I managed to break him five times and that gave me confidence. It was a good match for me; very emotional.”
The tie continues on Saturday at 4pm local time (1pm GMT) with the doubles rubber between Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares for Brazil and the Colombian team of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY: The atmosphere at the Carrasco Lawn Tennis Club was one of happiness after Marcel Felder (No. 244) overcame Jorge Aguilar (No. 336) 64 67(4) 61 62 to win the first point for Uruguay against Chile in this Americas Zone Group I tie.
However, the happiness was short-lived for the Uruguayan fans after Paul Capdeville (No. 119) wiped the floor with Martin Cuevas (No. 570) 61 63 60 in less than an hour-and-a-half to leave the tie level at 1-1 after the first day’s play.
From the outset Capdeville put his foot on the accelerator and was far superior to the younger of the Cuevas brothers in all aspects of the game. Uruguay’s No. 2 had his best chance when he managed to force three deuces in the second set, but a break by Capdeville in the eighth game was enough to secure a comfortable Chilean win.
After the second singles, the Chilean No. 1 couldn’t hide his satisfaction: “There was a big difference in the rankings and I had to show why. I came here playing well and that gave me a lot of confidence. On Saturday I will play the doubles for sure. I won the Santiago Challenger, today I won my match and the doubles is key. I will see who I’m playing with, it’s a team decision and we will need to speak together. Jorge [Aguilar] is a little down after his defeat today. I won a Challenger with Nico [Massu] last year. We’ll have to see. We have to do all we can to win.”
Chilean captain Belus Prajox agreed that Capdeville should play doubles: “It’s a given that Paul will play doubles. I know that I didn’t nominate him in the initial pairing, but something really odd would have to happen for him not to play on Saturday. We hope to win the doubles and celebrate on Sunday after the fourth rubber.”
For the home team. Cuevas’s loss couldn’t dampen Felder’s spirits. “I played well,” he said. “It was a close match and I finished by winning well. I’m happy because I played like a No. 1 for my team. Playing Davis Cup is an incredible experience and I’m happy to have led the team. It was a difficult match, especially in the first two sets, but I’m prepared to give everything for the doubles.”