ANTWERP, BELGIUM: Austria made it five wins out of five against Belgium as Jurgen Melzer secured the point required to retain their place in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group for 2012.
Melzer proved far too good for Olivier Rochus in the tie’s fourth rubber, winning in straight sets 64, 64, 63. Austria’s leading player had been some way below par on Friday when defeated by Steve Darcis in the second singles rubber. He was clearly still struggling to adjust, having recently raced back from six weeks in the USA.
That was not the case on Sunday. There were times when he was visibly frustrated, both at some of the official’s calls and his own shot execution. This only served to lift Austria’s top talent, who seemed able to step up a notch each time Rochus threatened to get close.
Melzer’s defeat on Friday was littered with 14 double faults. His victory against Rochus was lit up by 11 aces. He said: “I knew that I had to come back today following defeat on Friday because I don’t think we’d have been favourites had it gone to the fifth rubber, so I knew there was some pressure on me.”
Rochus replaced original choice Xavier Malisse for the fourth rubber. Malisse was in no shape to face the World No. 21 after suffering a shock defeat to Andreas Haider-Maurer in Friday’s opening rubber. Rochus – to cheers of “Allez Olli” – showed glimpses of inspiration, especially when playing more aggressively, but he was no match for Melzer.
Defeat sends Belgium down to the Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 after a two year stay in the World Group. It also means a losing start for new captain Johan van Herck.
The first set turned on a break of serve for Melzer in Game 10. Players exchanged breaks in the second set before the Austrian broke again in Game 10. The task facing Rochus was monumental and, though he tried to his utmost to cling on to Melzer’s coat-tails, the man from Vienna was in no mood to hang around, winning the third set 63.
You could see how much it meant to Melzer. He turned to the Austrian bench, threw his racket to the court and awaited the embraces from his on-rushing team-mates.
Melzer added: “This was a team effort. Four guys making three points. It’s not happened that often in Austria in the last few years so I’m really happy for the team.
“Everybody’s been so positive all week. We tried to win it as a team and I’m really glad we did.”
Rochus admitted: “I gave my best. I had some chances in the first and second set. Maybe I deserved more than I got out of it but Jurgen played really good at the big points.”
Austria captain Gilbert Schaller steps down after this tie, with a record of played 10, won five, lostfive. He leaves the team as he found them, in the World Group, and Melzer insists that adds to what was already a special day.
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) - 18/09/2011
Captain Gilbert Schaller (AUT) - 18/09/2011
Olivier Rochus (BEL) - 18/09/2011
Captain Johan Van Herck (BEL) - 18/09/2011