A dominant Romania team completed a clean sweep of all five rubbers with another two singles victories in their World Group play-off against Ecuador in Bucharest on Sunday, to wrap up a perfect weekend for captain Andrei Pavel and his men. The result means Romania will re-join the 16-nation World Group for a 14th time in its 68-year Davis Cup by BNP Paribas history next year.
After singles successes from Victor Hanescu and Adrian Ungur on Friday, and a one-sided doubles victory by Hanescu and Horia Tecau on Saturday, Victor Crivoi and Ungur weighed in with another two points in Sunday’s dead rubbers to leave the visitors with nothing to show for their efforts.
With the tie already decided by Saturday night, Pavel brought in world No.183 Crivoi to take on Ecuador’s No.1 Giovanni Lapentti in the first of Sunday’s singles and the local had too much energy for the South American during a relatively straightforward 62 64 victory. Later on, Ungur won his second rubber of the weekend when he scored a 63 64 victory over Emilio Gomez, son of 1990 French Open champion Andres, on the 18-year-old’s Davis Cup debut.
In the first match of the day Lapentti looked like he was feeling the effects of his exploits this weekend. Having already played eight sets on a sluggish outdoor clay surface at Bucharest’s first-time Davis Cup venue, the 27-year-old appeared tired and with few ideas of how to trouble an opponent ranked exactly 100 places higher. Two breaks of serve in the first set and another in the second were enough for Crivoi to get the job done. Had Lapentti been able to convert any of the eight break points he held in the second set things might have been different.
Romanian quality prevails
Gomez, currently ranked No.648 in the world, was understandably shaky in the opening stages of his first ever match in the competition, but showed enough signs that he will have a future representing his homeland. The teenager sprinted into a 3-0 lead over world No.130 Ungur in the second set but overall was more erratic than the Romanian in testing, breezy conditions.
Looking back, Romania, three-time runners-up in the competition back in 1969, 1971 and 1972, were heavy favourites the moment Ecuador’s star player, Nicolas Lapentti, ruled himself out of, first the singles, and 24 hours later the doubles, after a prolonged left knee injury that still needs time to fully heal.
The news left Ecuador’s captain Raul Viver having to field Lapentti junior and Ivan Endara for Friday’s singles, the duo owning singles world rankings of 283 and 408 respectively, and the latter playing his first ever live Davis Cup singles. In contrast Pavel had world No.54 Hanescu and doubles world No.18 and recent Wimbledon runner-up Horia Tecau at his disposal. In the end, the hosts’ quality proved too much.
A contented captain
“I’m so happy,” said Pavel, reflecting on the tie. “I was thinking about when I first started as captain. I had a loss against Russia and then a defeat against Sweden. There was a lot of stress in those first ties. We were a little lucky with Nicolas Lapentti injured this weekend and with a player like Victor Hanescu leading the team it was pretty easy in the end. It was perfect.
“World Group tennis is very important for us. Davis Cup is huge. Spectators will come and watch and if we’re at home against a big team it will be very good for Romania and very good for tennis in this country.”
Viver admitted his team had always been underdogs. “The rankings made Romania favourites before the tie and I think the results proved that,” he said. “Even with Nicolas healthy it would have been a tough series but we would have had a better chance.”
Lapentti vows to return
Lapentti senior had to endure a frustrating weekend, watching helpless from the bench as his nation slipped to defeat, but although the 34-year-old hasn’t played since the French Open in May he insisted he will do everything he can to ensure he wears his country’s colours again one day.
“I don’t want to finish [my Davis Cup career] like this,” the former world No.6 said. “Once I recover I want to see if I have the motivation to compete on the tour and if that’s not the case I will probably leave the door open to be part of the Davis Cup.” After a difficult weekend for team Ecuador it will be music to his captain’s ears.