In a hotly contested Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Zonal Group I tie, Slovak Republic delighted fans in Bratislava by delivering a 4-1 win over Ukraine. And when said to be hotly contested, be assured that a bit of temper flaring occurred during the first reverse singles match on Sunday.
The Slovaks were at 2-1 coming into the day and only needed for young Martin Klizan to defeat the Ukraine’s top player, Sergiy Sakhovsky, to take an insurmountable 3-1 lead for the weekend.
Having split the opening two sets of the match, the third set found Stakhovsky serving to force a tiebreaker, but was at 15-30 in the game. When Klizan’s return hit the net instead of going over which kept him from having double break point at 15-40, Klizan became angry. He shattered his racket, which certainly received a reaction from fans.
But the racket destruction seemed to inspire Klizan, who went on to win the set, and then the match, 64 36 76 (6) 62.
“It is unbelievable I defeated a great player today, in a match that meant so much for me and for this country,” Klizan said. “In the tiebreak I thought, ‘Oh my God, I can’t win this.’ But then I told myself, ‘No, you have to do this, and I’m glad I did it’.”
For Stakhovsky, the loss that pushes Ukraine down to Zone Group II competition for 2012 was disappointing. “It is hard to say anything smart after such a disheartening loss. I didn’t play as I had actually wanted to and the tiebreak was up-and-down… If I had taken some chances better, the match could have gone a completely different. (But) he got the momentum, tons of confidence, hit some great risky shots and I just couldn’t stop him.”
Slovak Davis Cup captain, Miloslav Mecir, was thrilled with how his team performed and that Slovak Republic will stay in Zone Group I of Davis Cup competition for 2012.
“I am really as if in ecstasy over this triumph,” Mecir said. “Prior to the tie I said that our opponent was the favourite, and today we managed to defy the odds… You know, fortune favours the brave, and Martin did show a lion’s heart today.”
The two countries elected to play the fifth dead rubber, which weighted the final score to 4-1 for the Slovaks. Pavol Cervenak defeated Ukrainian Artem Smirnov 64 64 in the final match.
In Espoo, Finland, the visiting Polish team only had pride to play for in the reverse singles matches. The tie had already been decided for Finland, who won the first three matches of the weekend.
Pride is a mighty force as is playing for your country. Jerzy Janowicz and Grzegorz Panfil were certainly proved that when they took to the court on Sunday.
Janowicz finally gave Poland a point in the tie with a 63 64 win over Harri Heliovaara. Inspired by that win, Grzegorz Panfil beat Henri Kontinen 76(1) 64 to win the second point for Poland, finishing the tie 3-2 in favour of Finland.
Kontinen said the team approached the reverse singles seriously even if the tie had already been decided for Finland.
“We had a good dinner (last night) and prepared for the rubbers as for any match. Time for celebration is this evening,” he said.
Kim Tiilikainen, who acted as coach for Finland in this tie because he is Janowicz’s full-time coach, will return to his usual role as Finland’s Davis Cup captain in their first tie next year. Despite an allegiance to Janowicz, Tiilikainen was excited with the weekend’s outcome.
“The team spirit was excellent, as always,” Tiilikainen said. “It was great that all the guys in our team got a chance to play this weekend for Finland.”
Philippine fans who gathered in the city of Cebu for the final day of action on Sunday had hope that their team could pull off a victory over Chinese Taipei.
By the completion of the first reverse singles of the day that hope was dashed. Treat Huey of Philippines couldn’t get the job done for the home crowd. He fell to Ti Chen 63 76(2) 62, which gave the Taiwanese an unassailable 3-1 lead for the weekend.
But despite losing the tie, the Philippine team didn’t shy away from the battle. They played the meaningless fifth match, and Jeson Partombon of Philippines defeated Jimmy Wang of Chinese Taipei 16 64 63.
The tie ended 3-2 in for Chinese Taipei, which allows the country to remain in Asia/Oceania Zone Group I for 2012.
In the last tie of the weekend, Ecuador came up with the victory over Mexico. Ecuador’s Julio Cesar Campozano, urged on by fervent fans in Guayaquil, needed only 1 hour 32 minutes to beat Daniel Garza of Mexico 60 63 61. The win put Ecuador ahead 3-1, but the teams elected to play the final match for the fans who wanted to see more tennis.
“The truth is that I hit the ball very well,” Campozano said. “It helped me greatly to mental confidence… I had to fight hard to win. In addition, the court was spectacular, was very slow, and that was also what encouraged me.”
Ecuador won the weekend 3-2, losing the final match when Miguel Gallardo Valles of Mexico beat Juan Sebastian Vivanco 63 63.
So, in 2012, look for Slovak Republic, Finland, Chinese Taipei and Ecuador to keep their place in Zone Group I, which is just a step away – but a big step - from attaining World Group status. Meanwhile, Ukraine, Poland, Philippines and Mexico will compete in Zone Group II action in 2012.