ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhstan are in dream land following the opening singles of their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie with Austria. Despite starting the encounter as underdogs, the side from Central Asia holds a 2-0 lead and victory in Saturday’s doubles would seal their passage into the quarterfinals.
Andrey Golubev had Kazakhstan off to the perfect start, but it was Evgeny Korolev, who had never won a singles match in this competition, who stole the show in what he said was, “one of the top three matches I’ve played in my career”.
The Moscow born Kazakh may have slipped to 211 in the world rankings, but his talent is undeniable and he played almost the perfect game to beat Jurgen Melzer, a player ranked 181 places above Korolev.
Korolev didn’t get off to the greatest of starts as his Austrian opponent eased into a 5-2 lead and looked destined to level up the tie. However the Kazakh hit back to win four games in a row to send the match into a tiebreak, which he would go on to win.
“In the first seven games I was just trying to get loose because I was nervous. It was really hard for me. Every point felt like the last point to me even though it was just the beginning of the game. However, I started to relax and things became easier,” Korolev commented.
With Melzer shell shocked, Korolev took full advantage, playing some blistering high risk tennis to take the second set with ease. A very impressive second serve also helped him. He won nine out of nine points and hardly gave his opponent a chance. The momentum was firmly with Korolev and there was to be no way back for the world No. 30 as the home favourite wrapped up a very impressive straight sets victory in just over two hours.
“I prepared extremely well for these matches and I played like I wanted to play. I may have won in three sets, but it was really tough out there and I am really glad that I did well,” said the 24-year old.
Meanwhile his opponent realised that he had been completely out played and wasn’t offering any excuses for his defeat.
“He played well and I was thinking that I have to play the ball deeper and I need to get a little more loop on the ball, but I wasn’t able to do that. I thought that the first set tiebreak was crucial, but he was the better player in the second and third sets and I just couldn’t find a way to stop him,” Melzer added.
Earlier Andrey Golubev had drawn first blood for Kazakhstan as the world No. 187 defied his ranking position to put in a commanding performance to beat Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets.
The 25-year old, who had never lost a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas singles match at home, made a subdued start, as his Austrian opponent looked the more settled of the two players. However, the Austrian failed to capitalise on his good start, as Golubev earned a surprising break. His advantage was short lived as Haider-Maurer broke back almost immediately. The Russian born Kazakh grew in confidence as the set developed and would take the subsequent tiebreak.
Golubev continued where he left off in the second set. He was by far the more adventurous of the two players and was rewarded for taking the game to his opponent by breaking Haider-Maurer in the sixth game, as the 25-year-old Austrian sent a forehand long. He would maintain his composure to serve out and take a two-sets-to-love lead.
Haider-Maurer had never won a Davis Cup singles match after losing the opening set and he wasn’t able to alter that statistic in this match. Golubev survived a mammoth game in his opening service game before breaking the world No. 107 in the fifth game.
With victory in his sights, the home favourite started to wobble and lost his serve in the eighth game, as Haider-Maurer leveled up the third at 4-4. The set went into a tiebreak and Golubev eventually sealed victory as Haider-Maurer screwed a forehand wide to get Kazakhstan off to the best possible start.
“I knew it would be an important match, as the first rubber is always crucial,” mentioned Golubev. “I thought I played well but the only thing was I was lacking match practice as I didn’t get the opportunity to play many matches before the Davis Cup. However, I knew I had to concentrate on winning and this helped me.”
The pressure is now firmly on Austria, who must win the remaining three rubbers if they want to reach the quarterfinals. Melzer isn’t down to play Saturday’s doubles, however, he would relish the chance if his captain decides to make a change.
“I would be ready, it wasn’t a physically tough tie today, it was more mentally tough. However I still think we are in the tie as Kazakhstan need to keep this level of tennis up over the next two days and if they do, they deserve to win”.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Dias Doskarayev (KAZ) - 01/02/2013
Evgeny Korolev (KAZ) - 01/02/2013
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) - 01/02/2013
Captain Clemens Trimmel (AUT) - 01/02/2013
Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT) - 01/02/2013
Andrey Golubev (KAZ) - 01/02/2013