The first day’s action in Europe/Africa Zone Group II second round provided some mixed results but the biggest shock of the day came in Hungary versus Latvia when World No. 544 Marton Fucsovics pulled off a five-set win over No. 80 Ernests Gulbis in Nyiregyhaza. Gulbis was ranked No. 21 in February 2011 but has fallen down the rankings after failing to defend ranking points over the last year.
Bosnia Herzegovina are delicated poised at 1-1 with Belarus overnight after wins for the No. 1 players of each team. American-trained Amer Delic took out Belarusian Dzmitry Zhyrmont at the start of the day 64 64 46 75. But Bosnia Herzegovina’s lead was quickly extinguished after Uladzimir Ignatik overcame Damir Dzumhur 63 76(4) 63. Both teams will be keen to win Saturday’s doubles rubber and the Belarusians have Grand Slam doubles winner Max Mirnyi on their side.
Home advantage paid off for Poland who have surged to a 2-0 lead over Estonia in Inowroclaw. Lukasz Kubot opened up the tie by defeating Vladimir Ivanov 63 62 62, and Jerzy Janowicz followed with a 76(4) 76(2) 36 61 victory over Jurgen Zopp.
Also in a solid position are Ukraine, who won both singles rubbers over Cyprus, thanks to straight sets performances from Sergiy Stahovsky and Sergei Bubka. Ukraine reached the World Group play-offs in 2009 and look to be slowly creeping back to Europe/Africa Group I with the No. 72-ranked Stakhovsky on their side. Should they win this weekend, they will be fighting for a place back in Group I come September.
In the all important play-offs, Luxembourg is the only team to register a perfect first day’s performance. Playing in Antananarivo, Madagasgar, the visiting team won both rubbers in straight sets. Laurent Bram defeated Lofo Ramiaramanana 61 64 64 followed by former US Open quarterfinalist Gilles Muller stretching out a 63 61 76(6) victory over Jacob Rasolondrazana.
All other play-off ties are level 1-1. Moroccan Yassine Idmbarek ran out the victory in the first rubber at home Casablanca over Monaco’s Benjamin Balleret 75 75 63, before Jean-Rene Lisnard drew the teams level by beating Mehdi Ziadi 76(4) 64 63.
Both Turkey and Moldova will be looking to gain the advantage in Saturday’s doubles after Turkish No. 1 Marsel Ilhan defeated Maxim Dubarenco 64 64 62, before Radu Albot overcame Haluk Akkoyun 64 62 61.
Finally the Irish team are visiting Egypt where the opening day’s spoils were evenly distributed. James McGee took out Karim-Mohamed Maamoun 26 64 62 75 only to see the lead extinguished when compatriot Conor Niland sank to Sherif Sabry 26 61 60 62.