Zverev takes down Kyrgios, Australia joined by Italy in Davis Cup quarterfinals

By Davis Cup standards, Germany’s Alexander Zverev beating Nick Kyrgios on the road in Australia is not that big of an upset–not after Cameron Norrie, a little-known Brit who recently played college tennis at TCU, came back from two sets and a break down against Roberto Bautista Agut to stun the Spaniard 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 two days earlier. After all, Norrie had never previously played a single five-setter and had never played a single professional match on red clay.

As for Zverev vs. Kyrgios, the 20-year-old German may be ranked higher (No. 5 to No. 14) but had been 1-3 lifetime in the head-to-head series with Kyrgios heading into Sunday’s proceedings in Brisbane. He was also coming off a five-set loss to Hyeon Chung in the Australian Open fourth round and had just barely battled past Alex de Minaur 7-5, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in Friday’s opening rubber. Kyrgios, meanwhile, was sporting a 7-1 overall record this season and had trounced Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Friday.

None of that mattered on finale Sunday.

An inspired Zverev, maintaining momentum from the most clutch Davis Cup performance of his career at de Minaur’s expense, took advantage of a struggling Kyrgios to dominate 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2 and send the Germans through to the quarterfinals of tennis’ annual team competition. Kyrgios was plagued an apparent elbow issue that relegated his serve to a shadow of the lethal weapon it had been against Struff.

Highlights:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuN0xMrE_mA

“[Zverev] played great today,” the 22-year-old Aussie noted. “I thought he served well. But my biggest weapon was not really there and that affects the rest of my game. It’s tough to go out there and not be able to put in your best performance. It just sucks. I had my eye on this Davis Cup tie throughout the whole Aussie summer.”

“Sometimes that’s how it falls,” Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt lamented. “We’ve just got pick ourselves up. Obviously we’ve got to try and next time fight to stay in the World Group, which will be the next goal, and if we can do that again, we still have a young up-and-coming team with not that much experience, so I’d like to think that the next three to five years we can have a real shake at the Davis Cup competition.’’

This year, however, is Germany’s chance to keep going.

“(Winning) against a really strong Australian team it makes us very confident also for the next rounds, for the next upcoming years,’’ captain Michael Kohlmann commented. “I think we showed that we have a lot of good players, a lot of strong players and all the four guys who are here.… They put something into the tie and I think that in the end we showed that we are able to go further than this.’’

Italy also went on the road and sealed the deal after rubbers, as Fabio Fognini finished off Japan’s Yuichi Sugita following a five-set thriller. Fognini prevailed 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-5 for his second five-set singles win of the weekend and his third point for Italy in the three-day span. The world No. 22 also recovered from two sets to one down against Taro Daniel on Friday before winning Saturday’s doubles rubber with Simone Bolelli 7-5, 6-7(7), 7-6(3), 7-5 over Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama.

After four hours and eight minutes on court against Sugita, Fognini’s total match time for the weekend ended at 11 hours and 41 minutes.

“Fognini played singles and doubles the first two days; today he was already tired and not sure to play,” captain Corrado Barazzutti said. “But he’s a really great player–the perfect player for Davis Cup.”

“I think this was the toughest Davis Cup tie I’ve played,” Fognini admitted. “I was really tired coming from Melbourne, hot conditions, to here where it’s cold and snowing. I played with my heart. Now it’s time for recovery and then we will think about the quarterfinal when we are close to it.”

Italy and Germany join the United States and Kazakhstan–who completed three-match sweeps on Saturday–on April’s quarterfinal schedule. The Italians await France, while Germany will go up against Spain. France, Spain Croatia, and Belgium all advanced with respective 3-1 wins over the Netherlands, Great Britain, Canada, and Hungary.

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