First he opened via Roberto Bautista, a guarantee of success these days in Valencia, and then finished off Carlos Alcaraz, who had just lost two days before and overcame a very bloody duel to put the signature and catch the goal. Both won, the doubles rounded off the plenary session and, consequently, Spain certified their access to the final phase of the Davis Cup that will be played at the Martín Carpena pavilion in Málaga, from November 22 to 27. They will also do it as the first in the group, with two victories in the locker – that of Wednesday’s opening against Serbia (3-0) and this one against South Korea (2-0) – and the only fault of Friday’s defeat against Canada (1-2). Lesser evil. Bruguera’s team will appear in a couple of months among the top eight and is positioned with ambition: number one at the front and, in perspective, under the tutelage of the Andalusian grandstand for the final stretch of the competition. The seventh Salad Bowl is three steps away.
Mathematics said that Spain depended on itself in this last meeting to achieve the pass and the leadership of group B, and afterwards they say that they will meet directly with Croatia in the quarterfinals. That is, forbidden to let your guard down. Always a guerrilla fighter and competitive, the Balkan team –champion in 2005 and 2018, finalist last year– entered the next season as second in their group –behind Italy, with a balance of 2-1– and will oppose it in November with interesting arguments. To the experience and the hammer of Marin Cilic (reserved this time) adds harshness in the singles (Borna Coric and Borna Gojo) and two of the most contrasted doubles players of recent times, Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic, eight and nine in the world respectively . Therefore, requirement of the good.
The Spanish team appeared this Sunday after having received the previous afternoon the help of Serbia, who beat Canada and had left the target within range for Bruguera’s team. So first, Bautista paraded with authority, firm before a very tender adversary who could barely tickle him. Seong Chan Hong, 384th in the world, settled for making up the score in the second set (6-1 and 6-3, after 1h 11m) and the Castellón native linked his seventh consecutive victory in the competition, full this week: Miomir Kecmanovic, Vasek Pospisil and Hong join the list of merits of a player who was decisive in achieving the last Salad Bowl, three years ago in Madrid.
After some hesitation, Bautista (34 years old, 21st) consolidates his experience as a full-fledged Davis man. He has not lost since the Russian Andrey Rublev prevailed in the group stage of the 2019 edition. From there, insurance. “I feel that I have more experience and that I manage the matches better”, he commented after resolving the last one. Until then, everything in order. But then he jumped on the track with a lot of desire to entangle Soon-Woo Kwon, who is far from being a sweetie, and demanded Alcaraz very well. 24 years old and 74th in the ranking, courageous and fast, the Asian proposed to fight until the end, although he lacked the determination that the Spaniard had in the tiebreaker and the number one managed to sentence: 6-4 and 7-6 (1) , after 1h 46m.
First win at the top
“It has not been easy. It has been a very demanding month and a half, because it has not only been New York, but also Montreal and Cincinnati. I came on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I was already training… It hasn’t been easy, but we’re at Davis, we’re representing Spain and it wasn’t time to be tired. I have given everything and now I think I deserve a few days off, ”he said in statements to Movistar from El Palmar.
The Murcian had lost against Felix Augger-Aliassime on Friday and showed once again that despite his youth and appetite, the US Open whiplash has taken its toll. Less lucid than in New York, logically, he knew how to nullify the resistance of a rival who already scratched him a set this year in Barcelona and who came to break above in the second set; however, Alcaraz kept his cool, straightened up, counterattacked – after Kwon had balled for 5-2 and served – and earned his 52nd win of the season, his first at the top of the circuit. He put his signature to the classification of Spain and La Fonteta celebrated it, before Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martínez beat Ji Sung Nam and Min-Kyu Song (7-5, 3-6 and 6-1).
Canada, second, will accompany those of Bruguera, while Serbia (without Novak Djokovic and with the same record as the Americans) was dismounted by the accounts.
“Although we lost to Canada, I think we have given an exceptional level”, valued the captain in the conference room. “Two days ago we played a good game and it was hard to finish like this. We knew that if we gave the level we are a good couple. We played calmer and we got the point”, stated Martínez. “Today will give us experience”, added Granollers. And Bruguera anticipated: “All the teams are very, very powerful. Croatia has Cilic, one of the best in indoor [bajo techo], and Coric, who is in his best year; in doubles they have two number ones with Mektic and Pavic. It will be a tough tie.”
THE SURPRISE FROM THE NETHERLANDS
The Netherlands starred in the great bell of the group stage. Led by Botic Van de Zandschulp (35th), she won all three crossings and got off one of the competition’s classics, Great Britain. Kazakhstan closed that Group D.
In Group A, Italy imposed its quality and led ahead of Croatia, while Sweden and Argentina (this one without scratching a single point) were left out.
In Group C, Germany did not regret the absence of their figure, Alexander Zverev. The one from Hamburg could not participate in the series due to an injury, but his team held up and progressed together with the versatile Australia, who have a good wardrobe and did not suffer the loss of Nick Kyrgios either. France and Belgium did not exceed the cut.
The final table of clashes in the Davis Cup quarterfinals is as follows: Spain-Croatia, Italy-United States, Germany-Canada and Australia-Netherlands. In the event that the Spanish team (2nd in the world ranking) managed to reach the semifinals, it would be measured with the winner of the last mentioned series.
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