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09 July 2011

Europe/Africa - Day 2


MATCH REPORT

By 

  • Marco Keller

Swiss fans

Switzerland and Italy have advanced in the fastest possible manner to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-offs. The Swiss defeated Portugal 3-0 at the end of day two, the Italians with the same score against Slovenia.

In Bern, the third point was given to the Swiss by the Olympic doubles champions Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Frederico Gil and Leonardo Tavares 63 64 64 in exactly two hours.

As in their respective singles matches on Friday, the Swiss had a slow start. Wawrinka was broken immediately and the Portuguese won the first seven points of the match. After that, however, the favourites found their rhythm and sealed the win of the first set, winning five consecutive games.

All smiles

Under the eyes of Swiss sports minister Ueli Maurer and stars like Mark Streit (NHL, New York Islanders) and Thabo Sefolosha (NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder), the Swiss then had everything under control and only in the last game the visitors had five break chances against Federer's serve, who then secured his 39th win in 50 Davis Cup maches with a service winner.

The fans in the Postfinance-Arena saw a very relaxed and entertaining Swiss combination, which not only showed spectacular points but often had to smile between points. "It's not always easy to concentrate when you play with Roger," Wawrinka smiled.

Captain Severin Luthi was very happy with the performance of his team: "Everyone has expected it but to win as smoothly wasn't obvious". The Portuguese weren't too disappointed as they had known how difficult it would be to beat this star line-up away from home and on a quick surface. "The matches were close but in the decisive moments, they were just better," Gil admitted.

Italy thirsty for promotion

In Arzachena, Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace teamed up to beat Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja 76(3) 76(4) 62 in 2 hours 38 minutes. Captain Corrado Barazzutti had decided for a last-minute change and put Starace in instead of Simone Bolelli.

And the move was successful - Bracciali and Starace showed why they had reached the quarterfinals of the French Open recently and proved to be extremely tough.

In the first two sets, the Italians had the better nerves: They won the first tiebreak after a set without any break points, then annullated two chances of their opponents during the second set before prevailing in the second set tiebreak again after having being denied four setpoints in the previous game. In the third set, it was all Italy then, and Starace gave the "Azzurri" the win with an overhead.

In September, the Italians will once again try to regain a place among the world's elite, where they traditionally (would) belong. The Davis Cup champion of 1976 was relegated in July 2000 after losing in Venice to Belgium and has never been in the World Group since. For Simone Bolelli, the nightmare has to end after eleven years: "We want the promotion now."

South Africa edges Netherlands 2-1

In Potchefstroom, South Africa, the hosts got a big step closer to qualifying for the play-offs by taking the 2-1 lead in the tie against the Netherlands, courtesy of Kevin Anderson and Rik De Voest beating Robin Haase and Jesse Huta Galung in four sets.

The first set was played on a very high level by both sides and logically was decided in a tiebreak. Instead of gaining the extra momentum, the Dutch then dropped their level a notch, whereas the home team excelled with consistency.

Especially De Voest played much better than in the singles on Friday and entirely justified his place alongside Anderson. De Voest had been a late substitute for Wesley Moodie, South Africa's best doubles player, who had to default because of the flu.

Big task ahead for Haase

Anderson and De Voest were in charge from the second set on, which they took thanks to a double break. In the third and fourth sets, they got the early break and the Dutch only got hope once more, when they managed to equalise to 4-4 in the fourth. But the hope didn't last long as they were broken immediately after, and then Anderson served it out.

Dutch captain Jan Siemerink had stressed the importance of the doubles match and after losing it, the disappointment in the camp of the "Oranjes" was huge. In fact, they sat for 30 minutes in their chair after the end. Siemerink tried to remain optimistic: "Let's hope that I'm wrong and that the doubles won't be crucial this time in the end."

In order to have a chance to realise the turnaround, Haase will have to beat Anderson in the fourth match. Not an easy feat, especially as Anderson hasn't dropped serve throughout the tie. Haase knows the difficulty of the job: "I'll have to figure out tonight how to break him."

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