ANTWERP, BELGIUM: The Austrian pairing of Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya came from a set down to deliver a crippling blow to Belgium’s hopes of retaining their place in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group.
Marach and Peya defeated Olivier Rochus and Steve Darcis in four sets, 46 63 64 64 and now expect leading light Jurgen Melzer to triumph in Sunday’s opening reverse singles for the required tie-winning point.
Peya said: “We knew being 1-1 after the first day that the doubles point was crucial, to give us the lead going into Sunday, but we coped with the pressure after losing the first set and we deserved to win.”
Belgium have never beaten Austria in their previous four meetings. They would surely have given themselves a massive chance of breaking that sequence had they won the doubles, with Darcis due to face Andreas Haider-Maurer in the fifth rubber on Sunday.
And when the Belgian duo claimed the first set 64, courtesy of a break in game three, all looked rosy. They even had break points in game one of the second set, but failed to convert either of them. Combining well, Marach and Peya got a break of their own in game six and pushed on from there.
Marach said: “They won all the important points and had break points early in the second set but we said ‘let’s hang in there’. We got our first break which was a release and after that we played more aggressive.”
All went with serve in the third set, until a Belgian double fault at 4-all gifted Austria a break at a crucial moment. The cow-bells rang out louder from the crowd. This will have been music to the ears of the Austrians. To the Belgium players, more a death knell.
The rubber was wrapped up inside three hours, with Marach and Peya keeping cool to win the fourth set 64. Darcis looked a shadow of the all-conquering force from Friday. At 0-40 in game one, he double-faulted, handing Austria a break.
But Belgium’s doubles pairing refused to surrender and got back on serve with a break of their own in game eight. The parity was short-lived, as Darcis squandered his serve straight away, allowing Austria to hold in game 10 and claim victory.
Darcis was unable to repeat his heroics from Friday, when he chalked up a sensational victory over Melzer to have Belgium up and running. Twenty-four hours later, he and Rochus were stopped in their tracks.
Belgium’s new captain, Johan van Herck, must now decide whether to stick with Xavier Malisse in Sunday’s key reverse singles against Melzer, or thrust Rochus into the fray. Malisse melted away in his match on Friday, defeated in straight sets by Haider-Maurer. The Belgian player’s confidence, by his own admittance, is rock bottom.
Van Herck knows the ball is firmly in Austria’s court but insists that there is still all to play for. He admitted: “We knew before that it was going to be a hard doubles to win. We knew that we would also need to be strong on Sunday. We will be strong on Sunday and we will see what happens but it is a massive task.”
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Alexander Peya and Oliver Marach (AUT) - 17/09/2011
Captain Gilbert Schaller (AUT) - 17/09/2011
Captain Johan Van Herck (BEL) - 17/09/2011