Germans get their revenge
Two years after they lost in the quarter-finals to Great Britain in Madrid, Germany turned the tables on their opponents on Tuesday by defeating the Brits 2-1 at the very same stage to reach the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2007.
“I think you could see that after the match point, I think a lot of pressure fell off,” admitted Germany team captain Michael Kohlmann.
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I was super happy. I mean, last time was 2007, and that year actually I played. I thought this team is much better than I was at that time, so I think they deserved it. So I was extremely happy and extremely proud.
Germany fell behind 0-1 in the tie before Jan-Lennard Struff came up with some clutch play to upset world No.12 Cameron Norrie 7-6(6) 3-6 6-2 and level the quarter-final.
A super-tight deciding doubles battle saw Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz fight back from 0-5 in the second set tiebreak to overcome British pair Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski 7-6(10) 7-6(5) in a clash that had zero service breaks and witnessed just one break point opportunity between both teams.
“Honestly, I don't know,” Krawietz said when asked how they turned that tiebreak around.
“Yeah, it's tough, of course, to start the second tiebreak with 0-5, but we just said, ‘Point by point, maybe we have a chance in this tiebreaker’, and then we served twice and then we were 2-5. We said, ‘Okay, let's try to make one point out of two’. Then turned it around. Yeah, crazy. Crazy sometimes.”
In one of the best points of the match, Krawietz flung himself to the ground to hit a diving volley in an exchange that went the Brits’ way – a move the German probably regretted the moment his body made impact on the unforgiving hard court at Olympiahalle.
“I'm too slow. That's why I have to dive,” joked Kraweitz. “I should make some quick steps so I don't have to dive anymore, but yeah.”
Luckily, the dive only resulted in some minor cuts on his fingers.
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Just as Croatia packed up and departed from Turin to Madrid, where the remainder of the tournament is being staged, Germany will now bid Innsbruck farewell and head to the Spanish capital, where they will take on either Sweden or Russia in the semi-finals on Saturday.
While Innsbruck does have some altitude (574m), Madrid sits at an elevation of 820m, which will make for a different set of conditions for the players coming from Italy and Austria.
“I think we have now three days to prepare. It's a bit more altitude, so the ball will be flying a bit more. The ball was bouncing here pretty high, so let's see if it bounces more there,” said Struff on Tuesday.
“I think it's very nice to fly with the team. We all said we want to go to Madrid, and reached that aim and now it's time to set a new aim to win the semi-finals and be very, very happy. I think we want to go further.”
Evans calls for rule change
Great Britain’s Daniel Evans suggested it might be better if nominations for the opening singles of a tie were made the night before, instead of just one hour prior to kick-off as is the case right now, to give players a chance to prepare properly for their opponents.
Evans was dealt a surprise on Tuesday when Germany fielded world No.86 Peter Gojowczyk against him instead of their No.2 player Dominik Koepfer, and the Brit had just one hour to prepare to face a right-hander instead of the left-handed Koepfer.
Evans did get an inkling Germany were going to play Gojowczyk when he saw the 32-year-old warm up before the nominations were announced but the confirmation only came an hour before start time. Gojowczyk hadn’t played a Davis Cup match since 2014 and seemed an unlikely choice for the Germans.
“Maybe Dominik was hurt, or maybe they thought, you know, I'd beat a left-hander, lose to a right-hander. We'll never know, I guess. I'm sure they had their reasons,” said Evans, who easily dispatched Gojowczyk in straight sets.
This is sort of the beauty of this competition. I don't think it's particularly fair on the No.2 that you can change it an hour before. I think it should go the night before, in my opinion. But that's my opinion. You have to deal with those things.
“I can't prepare to play two people. Can't do all the stuff the night before. We guessed it would be Koepfer, so I prepared to play Koepfer. But I can't do that twice over. I'll be up all night, which for the quality of tennis for the event, I think it should be the night before.
“I just think it would be a little better for preparation and stuff. But then, on the other side of it, it is pretty cool that you can sub somebody in and it is a different way to look at it. Depends which way you look at it.”
Highlights: Evans downs Gojowczyk to give Britain lead over Germany in quarter-final
Gojo draws on college experience in Sonego upset
When Borna Gojo was at Wake Forest University, getting heckled by students from a rival school while playing college tennis in the NCAAs, he probably never imagined that experience would come in handy a few years later while facing Italy in Turin in the Davis Cup quarter-finals.
The 279th-ranked Gojo claimed the biggest victory of his career on Monday, upsetting world No.27 Lorenzo Sonego to help Croatia defeat their hosts Italy in front of a rowdy home crowd.
Sonego did his very best to rally the Italian fans behind him at the Pala Alpitour but Gojo was unfazed by it all as he completed a 7-6(2) 2-6 6-2 win to give Croatia an early lead in the tie.
“I know I can compete with anyone,” said Gojo, who also had an impressive victory over Australia’s world No.61 Alexei Popyrin a few days earlier in the group stage.
“It's one match. Anything can happen. Maybe this is not the greatest comparison, but I played college tennis for a while. You have matches like this on a lower level but with the pressures like this a lot. I think that helped me a lot to just deal with, like, the team, the environment of the team, [and] just be ready for the crowd to be on you when you play Italy in Italy.”
Gojo was runner-up in the NCAA Championship in 2018 and was named Most Outstanding Player that season.
“In college you had people talking really bad things like right in your face there, so you get used to way worse things than this,” he said with a smile. “The crowd, I was able to deal with that good today. This is one of the big reasons I was able to get the win.
I think I played eight or nine clinching matches in my college career. There's been some really, really bad ones (crowds). You literally have a hundred drunk students screaming in your face all kinds of things.
“I'm also from Split. We're really, like, crazy down there. This isn't much for us. I was expecting way worse,” he added with a laugh.
Salisbury’s debut ends on a sour note
Joe Salisbury made his Davis Cup debut for Great Britain this week and the doubles world No.3 says he enjoyed his experience with the team in Innsbruck but was left puzzled by his form in the clash against Germany.
Salisbury walks away from the competition with a 1-2 win-loss record, as he and Neal Skupski defeated the Czechs and fell to the French in the Group stage before losing to the Germans on Tuesday.
“I have loved this week, loved playing for Great Britain, loved being around in the practices, the team room, on the bench and on court in the matches, but yeah, it's a different experience to playing on the tour, playing Grand Slams,” said Salisbury.
“I think it's extra pressure, which often I feel like helps me to perform well and I feel like I have played my best in some of the biggest matches that I have played. But this week that didn't happen. Whether it's because it was a different experience playing for your country, playing for your team and everybody else supporting the team, I don't know. I don't know why really I didn't perform today.
“I felt confident going into the match. We felt good after the match we won against Czech Republic, and, yeah, we felt confident going into it. Yeah, I loved competing for the team, but I just didn't perform today, and at the moment I don't know why.”
Stats of the day
- Germany have now won eight of their last nine Davis Cup ties played on hard courts.
- The Germans snapped a six-tie losing streak in Davis Cup quarter-final ties.
- Croatia have made it through to the semi-finals of the Davis Cup for the fifth time.
- Great Britain’s Evans recorded the 10th Davis Cup match-win of his career with his 6-2, 6-1 result against Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk on Tuesday.
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