Thursday, September 21, 2017

Davis Cup Semifinal Recap: French Fancy Themselves in Friendly Final

Hi All. Galileo here.

Well, the Belgians have done it again. They have made a surprise run to the final. Despite being seeded 7th they have made it. But like last time they will not be the favourites. That honour falls to the French. But before we get to the big matches of the weekend, we have to look at what else happened.

Argentina are the defending champions. They have just been demoted to World Group II. They are years from another championship. A 3-1 loss to Kazakhstan sealed their fate. Without Juan Martin Del Potro they visibly struggled. Last year’s finalists rode Marin Cilic’s 3-0 mark to victory against Colombia.

Switzerland, with none of its superstars, still managed to see off Belarus 3-2, but it went to a 5th rubber. The Netherlands came back from 0-2 down to defeat the Czech Republic. Without Tomas Berdych there to help, they struggled to close it out. Germany eased past Portugal, winning with a rubber to spare. And Japan did the same against Brazil, not dropping a set in singles.

Russia’s dream team of Rublev/Khachanov was stopped on Hungarian clay courts. Martin Fucsovics went 3-0, including a five set win over Andrey Rublev. That’s a huge upset, but anything can and does happen in the Davis Cup.

Meanwhile, Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil led Canada to victory in the eighth and last of the World Group Playoffs.

Now we enter the strange twilight zone of the ATP tour. After the U.S. Open we’ll only see the big stars a handful more times. We won’t see clay for months. We might see it in the Davis Cup final, but you know France will make David Goffin play on hard if not grass. We have a bundle of smaller tournaments, a lot of indoor hard and a lot of empty stadiums.

We are running down the clock until Paris, the bizarre next gen finals and then the real finals. We are coming to a close, coming to the finale of the tour.

Every day we hear about a new addition to the next gen tournament. Here’s the latest in "innovation."

Six weeks may not sound like much, but there is still so much tennis to be played. But before we can get to that we have to have a look at what happened in the Davis Cup. After all, this Cup is on borrowed time.

Next week we have the inaugural edition of the Laver Cup. This BACKSPINNER suggests you go and check it out. Federer and Nadal are going to be there, playing for Team Europe. Team World has Jack Sock and Nick Kyrgios. It should be good.

...If Australia had hosted this they would have won. If the surface had not been on clay Kyrgios would probably have beaten Goffin in straight sets. It’s impossible to know the stats because the tennis world does not have a reliable database for such things, but the home win rate must be around .650. Steve Darcis is the hero for this team. He was there against Germany in round one when David Goffin was not. He is always putting everything on the line for Belgium. He is one of those players who is 20 per cent better than usual when playing for his country. It’s the opposite of the Sam Stosur effect. After beating Italy 3-2 [with a dead rubber at the end] at home they knew they would have a much harder tie this time round. When Belgium did so well three years ago they had all four ties at home. This time they have no such luxury.

In the first rubber, Goffin was in trouble early but rebounded for an excellent 6-7 [4], 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 victory over John Millman. The Australians were happy with that, as Millman is 170 places below the Belgian in the rankings. Kyrgios impressed next, coming back from two sets to one down to win 6-3, 3-6, 6-7[5], 6-1, 6-2. The way he turned it on in the last two sets, on the forehand wing in particular, was exceptional. He is unplayable in a way not even Novak Djokovic is at his best. He is unplayable in the way that Sampras was, the way that Fernando Gonzalez occasionally was. In the doubles, Peers/Thompson were the huge favourites. And so it turned out to be, with the Aussies rolling to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 victory. In the key fourth rubber, Kyrgios came out on fire. He was running Goffin ragged. The clay was the Belgian’s ace in the hole, however. He used the dirt to his advantage, always managing to get one more ball back, send up one more lob. Kyrgios would have beaten him handily on hard-courts. But on the clay his opponent was able to hold on. He was able to dig in, to rally. The Aussie had numerous break points but was always denied. In the end he ended up having to save set points before finally edging a tight set with an ace. But over the course of the three or four hour match he was worn down. Goffin broke in the first game of the fourth set and kept his momentum up, winning 6-7[5], 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. He is now 15-1 in his last 16 Cup matches. In the final rubber the hosts had all the momentum and Darcis was there again to bury Australia. He won 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 against Jordan Thompson. He never looked threatened. He had to save a tonne of set points at 4-5 in the second set, but once they were gone the match slipped away.

Their opponents are neighbours. But it is unlikely they will be welcoming them with open arms in November. The French are also unlikely to play the tie on clay.

...(unfortunately, internet difficulties prevented Galileo from completing his FRA/SRB tie recap)


In St. Petersburg, Roberto Bautista Agut is going to see off third seeded Fognini in the first semi-final. In the next Tsonga is going to beat compatriot Mannarino. Why they aren’t playing in France, where Tsonga is at his best, is a mystery.

After your best performance at a slam you tend to crash a bit at your next event. So look for Pablo Carreno Busta to falter a tad. He will lose to Lucas Pouille in the first semi-final in Moselle. Still, a semi-final result is a superb one. In the bottom half, Gilles Muller beats David Goffin and then wins the title. Yep. The defending champ, Pouille, loses out in the finals.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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