Dramatic matches, triumphant returns…it’s all here in this week’s Doubles Take.
COMEBACKS, CLINCHERS & SURPRISES: IN OTHER WORDS, DAVIS CUP
The first round of Davis Cup World Group play had all the drama and intrigue you’d expect from the international team event—and the doubles didn’t disappoint.
The U.S. and Kazakhstan clinched ties against Serbia and Switzerland, respectively, after middle-day triumphs.
Down 2-0 after the first day to Belgium, Hungary prolonged its tie after Atilla Balazs and Marton Fucsovics beat Ruben Bemelmans and Joris de Loore in five sets. That was one of three rubbers that went the distance. Tim Puetz and Jan-Lennard Struff staked Germany to a 2-1 lead over Australia after beating Matthew Ebden and John Peers. While the Aussies couldn’t provide the result the home crowd was clamoring for, Croatia—another host nation—was able to in its rubber against Canada.
What a comeback!@Cilic_Marin and @DodigTennis come roaring back after being down two sets and a break in the third to win 2-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2!— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) February 3, 2018
Croatia leads Canada 2-1 at @DavisCup pic.twitter.com/5ml5o3PBnd
Arguably the biggest hero of Davis Cup weekend, Fabio Fognini helped Italy take a 2-1 lead over Japan. Even when nature called, nothing could stop him.
After surprise singles splits from the first day, Spain and France righted the ships with doubles wins over Great Britain and the Netherlands, respectively. France’s Nicolas Mahut pulled out all the stops to help his team.
The winners all advanced to the quarterfinals, to be held in April.
A WINNING RETURN
Back in 2012, Vera Zvonareva—best known for her singles prowess—won the Australian Open, her second career Grand Slam doubles title, with countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Six years later, she’s back in the winner’s circle—singles or doubles—as she and Timea Bacsinszky took the crown in St. Petersburg over Alia Kudryavtseva and Katarina Srebotnik.
Having stepped away from the game to become a mother, Zvonareva’s in the midst of a comeback, which will undoubtedly gain momentum as she’s a tournament winner once again.
At the Taiwan Open, Yingying Duan and Yafan Wang—former WTA Elite Trophy champs (though not together)—won the title in straight sets over Nao Hibino and Oksana Kalashnikova. For Wang, it’s her first title since that Zhuhai triumph in 2015, and it’s Duan’s second career victory after the Elite win last year.
NEWS & NOTES
Amid all the Davis Cup action over the weekend, a former stalwart for Brazil announced his impending retirement on Instagram.
Sa has reached 30 doubles finals in his career, winning 11 of them, and played Davis Cup from 1997 to 2009.
A LOOK AHEAD
It’s a reversal of sorts for the pros as the women compete in their annual team event, Fed Cup, while the men are back to tournament action. At the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, the top seeds are Ivan Dodig—fresh off his Davis Cup heroics—and Rajeev Ram. They’re followed in the draw by Marcus Daniell and Dominic Inglot. Both teams have tough openers against Wesley Koolhof and Artem Sitak and Ken and Neal Skupski, respectively.
At the Ecuador Open, the year’s first event on clay, Marcelo Demoliner and Purav Raja are the top seeds, while Treat Huey and Philipp Oswald are in the two spot. Sa is teaming up with countryman Thomaz Bellucci in one of his final events. The final tournament on the calendar this week, the Sofia Open in Bulgaria, sees the veterans Marcin Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi atop the draw sheet, with Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya seeded second.
Follow Van on Twitter: @Van_Sias