Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Croatia to host Argentina in Davis Cup final

As tennis followers world wide took a collective deep breath once the final acts were played out at Flushing Meadows, male players from many nations had little time to rest, with Davis Cup commitments to be met the next week.

The semi finals for 2016 were held: Current Cup holders and top seeded Great Britain v sixth seed Argentina, and unseeded Croatia v fifth seed France.

While the ATP Tour took a back seat to these important team events, which were accompanied with World Group playoffs, including Australia v Slovakia and Belgium v Brazil, two WTA tournaments were held, in Japan and Canada.

Great Britain and Argentina opened with a replay of the Olympic Gold Medal match, and it was over five hours of riveting tennis between Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro in front of a keen Glasgow crowd.  Down two sets to one,  the Argentine leading light grafted his way back, taking the final sets and giving his nation the perfect start.

Great Britain was hopeful that its second singles player, Kyle Edmund, would continue his good US Open form and overcome resistance from Guido Pella. He did for one set, edging out his opponent in an opening tie breaker, but Pella outgunned the Brit from that point, and after Day One, Argentina was in a surprising prime position 2-0.

The Murray brothers brought Great Britain back into contention, first with a doubles victory, Andy joining his more renowned doubles playing sibling Jamie to defeat del Potro and Leo Mayer in four sets, and on the final day Andy far too accomplished for Pella, winning in straight.

The deciding singles match saw Mayer chosen ahead of a worn out del Potro to carry Argentina's fortunes, while Dan Evans received the nod instead of Edmund for the hosts.
Evans put his team ahead with a first set success, but it was the final joy for Great Britain, and with his four set victory, Leonardo Mayer became the hero of Argentina, propelling it into the Davis Cup final.

Argentina will face Croatia in an away final following Croatia's elimination of France 3-2 in the other semi final.
France was unable to call on Gael Monfils or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga due to injury, but Lucas Pouille and Richard Gasquet filled the opening day singles, illustrating the current depth of French tennis, especially on the men's tour.

Gasquet gave France the ideal start, convincingly defeating Borna Coric in straight sets.  Marin Cilic then placed his stamp on the semi final, levelling the tie with a win over Pouille, before teaming with Ivan Dodig on the second day to knock over favoured French doubles pair Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who happen to be ranked the world's best.

Leading 2-1, Croatia wrapped up the semi final in front of a rapturous home crowd, with Cilic finishing it off via a straight sets triumph over Gasquet.

The final match was played as a best of three sets affair, due to its result having no bearing on the overall tie.  For the record Lucas Pouille defeated Marin Draganja in two sets.

The 2016 final in Croatia will either be a first ever Davis Cup title for Argentina or the second win for Croatia.  When Croatia broke through for its debut victory in 2005, it was unseeded, as it is again this time round.

The successful nations in the World Group play-offs were: Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Russia, Spain, Germany and Japan. 7 of the 8 were the seeded nations involved.  So players such as Wawrinka, Nishikori, Raonic, Nadal and Federer could potentially be playing for Davis Cup spoils in 2017.

While the cameras were concentrating on Davis Cup, American Christina McHale was achieving a significant personal milestone, winning her first WTA title - the Tokyo International - with her final victory over the Czech Republic's Katerina Siniakova.

Although France lost its Davis Cup semi, 19 year old Oceane Dodin provided her nation with some joy, also winning her first WTA title - in Quebec - defeating American Lauren Davis in the final.  Oceane becomes the first teenager to win a WTA tournament this year, and now is a top 100 ranked player.

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