Tsitsipas renews spark at Davis Cup

Stefanos Tsitsipas played Davis Cup for the first time last weekend.

It’s hard to believe. But when you’re the only top-450 player in your country, and you’re top 10, it’s hard to justify playing Group III zonals.

This one was at home, though. He went 4-0 in singles. Brother Petros, playing Davis Cup for the third year, got a doubles win,

“It’s a different energy when you’re out on the court representing your country. People are much more emotional,” he said. “I really hope I leave from here with something good on the back of my shoulders.”

Davis Cup now “Davis Cup by Rakuten”

The Davis Cup announced a new “global partner” Wednesda: Asian e-commerce giant Rakuten.

Rakuten already sponsors the Tokyo ATP Tour event.

It’s not exactly an arm’s length transaction. The CEO of Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani,  is one of Gerald Piqué’s big-money partners in Kosmos, which bought the 119-year-old men’s tennis competition.

But it’s a big thing. Rakuten will officially be (take a deep breath) the “Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner and Global Presenting Partner for Davis Cup.”

Which now means it will be called the “Davis Cup by Rakuten”.

Rolls right off the tongue, dunnit?

Did you know? There’s Davis Cup

This was supposed to be Davis Cup quarterfinal weekend. Which explains why there are no ATP Tour events this week.

But with the new format … pfft ….

However, there are four zonal ties going on, on that Friday-Saturday schedule that kind of makes Friday a forgotten day.

Romania is hosting Zimbabwe, Lithuania travels to Morocco, Thailand is hosting Philippines and Peru is in San Salvador.

The other zonal ties opted to play in September instead.

Romania’s Marius Copil lost to Benjamin Lock in his opener, while Ricardas Berankis of Lithania won his opener against Morocco’s Adam Moundir.

Pots drawn for Davis Cup Finals

With the updated ITF world rankings, the pots from which the 18 qualifying nations for the Davis Cup will be drawn have been determined.

The top six  – France, Croatia, Argentina, Belgium, Great Britain and USA, are in the first pot.

The next six – Spain, Serbia, Australia, Italy, Germany and Kazakhstan, are in the second.

Canada, Japan, Colombia, Netherlands, Russia and Chile are in the final pot.

One from each will be drawn into one of six pools for prelims Monday-Thursday.

The winner of each pool, and the two next best, will qualify for the weekend.

*Shauger* rules in Bratislava

Denis Shapovalov’s straight-sets win over Slovakia No. 1 Martin Klizan, with Canada down 1-2, was terrific. 

A decade Klizan’s junior, the 19-year-old had more legs left after both played doubles to open Saturday’s play.

But it was Félix Auger-Aliassime – in his live Davis Cup debut – who impressed.

Just 18, Auger-Aliassime recovered mentally from losing singles Friday and losing the doubles earlier Saturday. He defeated Norbert Gombos 6-3, 6-4 in the decider to send Canada to the finals.

“Obviously it’s crazy, the best moment of my career, my life. I’ve never felt these emotions before, it’s just pure happiness,” Auger-Aliassime told Sportsnet.

After 50 years, Colombia to play for the Cup

The new Davis Cup format was a blessing for Colombia.

The country had never been in the World Group, forced to slog through the Americas zonals year after year.

Colombia made the playoff round to earn promotion to the World Group six times: in 2010 (vs. the U.S.), in 2013 and 2015 (Japan), in 2014 (Canada), in 2017 (Croatia) and last year against Argentina.

Each time, they lost.

But playing at altitude in Bogóta this weekend, they swept Sweden and will finally have their shot in Madrid in November.

Imagine the joy of Santiago Giraldo, who has played every year since 2006.

Stellar debut for Swiss teen Kym

Jerôme Kym is just 15 – 16 next week. 

He’s never played a pro match and, ranked No. 298 in the juniors, has never played in a tourney above a Grade 2 in a year and a half at the ITF level.

But a Swiss team without Federer or Wawrinka selected him for its qualifier against the Russians, who brought a quality roster.

The kid, along with Henri Laaksonen, pulled off a major upset as they defeated Andrey Rublev and Evgeny Donskoy 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (1) in doubles to keep Switzerland alive after an 0-2 first day.

It was in vain. But watch out for the kid.

No Goffin, Darcis for Belgium

David Goffin played virtually every tie for Belgium from 2012 (23-3 in singles). Steve Darcis has been playing since 2005; Ruben Bemelmans since 2008.

But for the qualifier against Brazil, (requiring a looooong flight), all took a pass.

It’s admittedly a lot to ask – especially the one-week switch to (indoor) clay for those not playing the South American clay circuit this month.

All are Montpellier this week; Darcis and Goffin are playing doubles together.

The good news: the subs got past Brazil 3-1. They even upset the experienced team of Soares and Melo in doubles. So they’ll be in the finals.

French Davis Cup supporters take stand

The reigning Davis Cup champions have made their feelings about the proposed “revamp” fairly clear, offering an impassioned defence of the current format.

And the players are not alone. Their merry band of traveling fans unfurled a banner during the playing of the “La Marseillaise”, prior to the start of the country’s quarterfinal tie against Italy in Genoa Friday.

The fans also are wearing black headbands as a symbol of their fundamental issues with the International Tennis Federation’s plan to turn it into a once-a-year, big-bucks event at a neutral venue in Asia.

Mecir out as Slovakia’s Davis Cup captain

As an independent nation, Slovakia has known only one Davis Cup captain.

But after 24 years, Miloslav Mecir is stepping down due to unspecified health issues.

He’s only 53; Mecir was just 26 when his playing career ended because of back problems.

Had he been able to go one more year, he would have become the all-time longevity leader. With his retirement, he remains tied with Australia’s Neale Fraser. 

Slovakia spent seven years in the World Group, and reached the final in 2005. The Slovaks lost at home to Croatia in a fifth and deciding rubber that year.