The complete loss of interest in the Davis Cup was rather apparent in my thorough lack of analysis of the mainstream media, who were probably only watching the Australian ties hoping Nick Kyrgios had a brain malfunction, so they could get a few cheap clicks.
For me, I thought this new format the ITF, Gerard ‘Mr Shakira’ Pique and Mr Mikitani spent a couple of billion on felt flatter than Christopher Columbus’ first voyage, obviously being their first attempt at this new ‘World Cup’ format, but reason Problemo Juan A for me- THE TIMESLOT.
The first lot of matches started at 1pm local (Which at 11pm AEDT, is basically late night SBS material), but the evening sessions didn’t start until at least 6pm local (For reference, that’s 4am AEDT), and even then, they were dependent on the afternoon ties finishing on time- Some ties didn’t start until well past 7:30, and in the case of the USA vs Italy tie, kept going until 4:04 in the morning.
I imagine Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis were calling them lightweights.
In further problems for Channel 9, both the Australian group stage ties, and then the Quarter Final against the Canajuns, were all in the evening sessions, which meant basically nobody down here gave a concerted crap.
Another ‘Problemo’ that really ground my gears was the complete lack of atmosphere in most of the ties, which is one of the defining characteristics of a Davis Cup tie.
Outside of the Spanish ties (Naturally getting that home crowd advantage), some of the venues would have been lucky to be half-full, with 5% being hardcore travelling fans (Like the ever loyal Argentines), and the other 95% sipping a Rioja not even focusing on the action at hand.
The only place with less of an atmosphere than Estadio 3 was the studio where they filmed the Moon Landings.
But, all of my gripes now out there, there was one big positive from the shortened 6 day format- The intensity of the rubbers.
Of the 24 ties prior to tonight’s final between Spain and Canada, 11 went to a deciding 3rd Doubles rubber, and let me tell you, I tuned in to the Serbia-Russia doubles match on Friday evening, and that tiebreaker was riiiiiiiiight up there.
Shame the Russians treated Victor Troicki like a Siberian prisoner.
But, time to take a look at how the Aussies went in Group D.
Team: Nick Kyrgios, Alex de Minaur, John Millman, John Peers, Jordan Thompson
The Colombia tie (3-0 Australia)
So this was the first time Australia and Colombia had played in a Davis Cup, and the massive plus for the Aussies was that Saint Nicholas of Canberra proved to Little Lleyton that he was ready to return to the team format of the Davis Cup, and with the format shortened to 3 sets, he could do some serious damage throughout the week.
The Colombians had played on Monday evening against Belgium, and Dan Elahi Galan, despite being ranked at 194, very nearly got the better of World No.11 David Goffin, going down in 3 sets to seal the win for the Belgians, who took the tie 2-1.
A fired up Kyrgios took on World No.468 Alejandro Gonzalez, and despite Speedy showing good fight, Kyrgios had him covered, and won fairly comfortably 6-4 6-4.
After that it was Alex De Minaur to play Galan in the main singles rubber, and given he took a set off a very solid player in Goffin, The Demon may have been in for a fight.
De Minaur won the 1st Set 6-4 after taking 4 chances to get the break at 4-3, and then immediately broke Galan’s serve in the 2nd Set, then broke again, and raced away to a pretty much unbeatable 5-1 lead, although he was broken while serving for the match at 5-2 (Pretty much his only slip-up all night), but the Demon responded with a break next game, to seal the rubber, and the tie.
So in winning both the singles, the Aussies had also negated the Colombians biggest advantage, which was the World No.1 doubles pairing in Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
Summing up the Colombians this week, they still couldn’t gain the consolation of defeating John Peers and Jordan Thompson, despite being 6-2 up in the deciding tiebreak.
Yep, the world’s best doubles pairing blew 4 match points against against John Peers, and Thommo, who is most commonly mistaken for a derro kid in public.
That win for Peers & Thompson cannot be understated- Cabal and Farah are the best doubles pairing… (Jeremy Clarkson voice) IN THE WORLD.
So, the perfect start for the Aussies, and thanks to the weird-arse scheduling, they would play Belgium on Wednesday evening, who had the advantage of a day’s rest, with the winners to top the group and play the Canadians in the Quarter Finals.
The Belgium tie (2-1 Australia)
Australia had lost the last 3 Davis Cup ties against Europe’s waffle capital- The 2007 World Group, the 2010 Playoff, and that bloody 2017 Semi Final, where the Aussies were one rubber win away from hosting a Final.
1st Up, Kyrgios took on Steve Darcis, a good example of a player who grows a third leg playing for his country, although because of the Great Britain vs Netherlands tie going well past 6, the match didn’t actually start until 8:20 local…. which was 6:20am AEDT… on Thursday morning.
Unlike their last Davis Cup encounter which went 5 sets on a clay court (Which Nick won), this was 3 sets on an indoor hard court- Advantage big time to the King Of Canberra.
Kyrgios blew Darcis off the court in the 1st Set, breaking twice and looking bulletproof on serve to take out the set 6-2.
Kyrgios kept up the master serving performance, but Darcis rose to the occasion, and as a result, there was only one break point chance in the 2nd Set- Kyrgios at 1-1 30-40, but Darcis eventually held after several deuces.
Thus, it went to a tiebreak, which was a perfect replica of that 2nd Set- Both Kyrgios and Darcis held their nerve on serve, with neither giving up a mini break for 19 consecutive points, in that time Kyrgios saved 2 set points, and Darcis saved 2 match points.
But after holding serve to go to 10-9 and hold a 3rd match point, Kyrgios stayed alive in a rally against Darcis, who made an unforced error on his forehand to finish the match.
So, the Aussies are 1-0 up, Little Lleyton’s pumped off his tits with adrenaline, as the main singles battle between David Goffin and Alex De Minaur gets ready to take flight in front a fairly pro-Belgian crowd.
After the 1st Set, I figured there was two players out there, but only one of them was actually playing- The Demon blew Goffin out of the water with a big fat bagel, despite serving at only 50% on 1st Serve.
De Minaur broke again early into the 2nd had a match point on Goffin’s serve at 5-3, but he couldn’t convert, and then while serving for the match, Goffin broke him at the first time of asking, then held for 6-5, had set points ON DE MINAUR’S SERVE, but somehow, Alex held, and we had another tiebreak!
De Minaur established an early lead, but Goffin clawed it back to 4-4 on serve, and then made an unforced error on his forehand, giving De Minaur the match on his his racquet, and he didn’t let it go this time, serving it out to win the tiebreak 7-4, and handing the Aussies Group D win!
The doubles started just after midnight local, but Peers had concerns about his wrist, and with nothing to gain, the Aussies retired from the doubles after just 1 game (Which they won), as Belgium, despite getting a 6-1 6-0 walkover as per the rules, missed out on qualifying as one of the two best runners up, having a 7-7 sets record, compared to Argentina, who had 8-6.
The Aussies were through, they’d beaten Belgium for the first time since 1991, and they would take on the Canadians, who defied history, and managed to defeat the USA for the first time ever, after 15 consecutive tie defeats dating back to 1913.
That was only 1 defeat short of the Vitas Gerulaitis special.
The Canajia Quarter Final (2-1 Canajia)
The first of the Quarter Finals, and here’s a history lesson- This was the first time Australia had played Canada in a Davis Cup tie since 1964.
Given that Australian team was compromised of John Newcombe, Tony Roche and Roy Emerson, they won 5-0.
In fact, in their 9 ties (All won by Australia/Australasia), the Canadians had won just ONE RUBBER– In 1949, a character named Brendan Macken defeated Bill Sidwell in 5 setter that finished 8-6 in the 5th.
Amazingly, Bill is still kicking on the age of 99, unlike a key member of the Australian team.
In a major blow for the Aussies, Saint Nick had descended to the depths of hell on Wednesday evening, pulling up with a sore collarbone, and I think a good judge of tennis in Darren Cahill may have been around the ballpark about why he was mysteriously (At the time) not nominated.
It leaves you to wonder, did this ‘Nick’ really exist at all, or was he just a figment of Little Lleyton’s imagination?
The loss of Kyrgios forced Hewitt to nominate John Millman to play Vasek Pospsil, who had proved that Davis Cup black magic is very very real, after somehow knocking off Fabio Fogini, and then winning a serving duel against the Servebot T-800 that is Reilly Opelka.
After falling behind 3-0 early on, Millman broke back and levelled the scores at 3-3, as the match was yet another test of mettle on serve, and the 1st Set would go on to a tiebreak.
Millman held a 4-2 lead before Pospisil pulled him back to 5-5, where Millman made an utter miracle of a rundown volley to claim the mini break and have a set point at 6-5 on his own serve, but he couldn’t get it done, and a couple of holds later, Pospisil had a set point of his own, and Millman dumped a forehand into the net, and the Canadians won a very tight 1st Set.
The 2nd Set was a mass of holds, until at 4-5 on Millman’s serve, Pospisil brought up a match point with what was his first break point chance of the set, and he worked Millman over, before hitting what looked like it was going to be a forehand winner to seal the match, but Millman got a racquet to it, and then watched as it never looked a chance of landing in.
1st blood to Canada, and that last game was the story of the match- Millman was there for 90% of the time, but the iron got hot twice, and Pospisil managed to pick it up and burn Millman twice to devastating effect.
I can’t help but feel like using the hypothetical that if Nick hadn’t been struck down, he would’ve been more than capable of sucking away the Popsicle.
The Antipodeans had their backs to the wall, but a quick prayer to Satan allowed De Minaur to conjure up another massive performance, coming from a set down to defeat the fabled Canadian crimelord Denis ‘El Shapo’ Shapovalov 3-6 6-3 7-5, with Alex serving immaculately in that 3rd Set, only facing one break point (Which he saved).
Shapo beat Alex in pretty much every major stat, but it would be the difference in unforced errors that proved the difference.
So it was 1-1, and it was on to the decisive doubles rubber between Shapovalov and Pospisil, and Thompson and Peers, who was set gto go after his injury problems the previous day.
Armed with the aforementioned Davis Cup black magic, Shapovalov and Pospisil played lights out again, and took the 1st Set after breaking in the first game, but the Aussies broke in the first game of the 2nd Set and raced out to a 3-0 lead.
However, Thompson was broken for 3-2, and then again at 4-4, and Pospisil had no problems serving out the tie, and not only had Canada won twice as many rubbers against the Aussies as they had in over a century, they’d beaten them for the first time ever and kept the dream run going!
So to go with not winning a men’s major singles title in a calendar decade for quite possibly the first time ever, Australia have now gone calendar decade without winning a Davis Cup title for the first time ever, in a drought that has now reached 16 years.
Still, if this were horse racing, the form from this would be holding up pretty darn well, because the Canadians reached the Final for the first time.
And they didn’t even have Milos Raonic, or Felix Auger-Aliassime.
If they knock off a Spanish team with Rafa in it, that’ll be one of the great sporting performances you’ll never hear about.
All in all, there’s a lot of things Mr Shakira and the mongoloids running the show can work on for future editions of this ‘Tennis World Cup’, most of all moving it to a place where they might actually get bigger crowds.
Hell, they got 42,000 people to watch Federer vs Zverev in Mexico City, why not try there?