Team Spain Remains Undefeated At ATP Cup

Roberto Bautista Agut (photo: ATP Tour video)

SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, January 3, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreño Busta have proven themselves as a potent 1-2 combination for Spain at the ATP Cup. On Monday afternoon, inside Qudos Bank Arena, the World No. 19 Bautista Agut improved to 9-2 in singles at the ATP Cup after beating Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-4, 7-6 (4), which clinched Spain’s victory.

Bautista Agut withstood 10 aces by the World No. 8 Ruud by winning 92 percent of his first-serve points, hit 18 winners and did not face a break point. Earlier, the 20th-ranked Carreño Busta set the table for his Spanish teammates with his 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 345 Viktor Durasovic for his fourth career ATP Cup triumph. Later, Spain’s Pedro Martinez and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina won their dead doubles rubber in straight sets to cap a 3-0 shutout win over Norway.

“Casper is playing unbelievable tennis, [he did] an unbelievable performance last year, and today I played very good,” Bautista Agut said after his victory in an on-court interview. “I returned very well, I made very few unforced errors and I played aggressively. I try to play matches like this and that is why I am practicing hard and I am trying to show this level.”

Carreño Busta said during his team’s press conference that it was important for Spain to be 2-0 after singles. “We know that Casper is a really good player,” he said. “Roberto makes a good job today.

“And I think that for me it was a good experience today on court. Much better than the first day. It’s normal also to be better than the first day. It’s important now to be improving my level, to be improving the confidence.

“We know that we won the two matches (against Chile and Norway), but now we need to be focused for the next against Serbia (on Wednesday).”

Spain (2-0) will face Serbia (1-1) in Group A play with a berth in the semifinal round at stake.

Bautista Agut admitted that he likes playing in Australia. “I think I play some of my best tennis here every year,” he said. “It was not easy to manage the finish of 2021.”

Now, with a 2-0 start to the new season, all is well for the 33-year-old Spaniard. “It’s a good start and I feel very good,” he said. “I always like to play as a team, I like to play team competitions.

“Pablo and Albert (Ramos-Vinolas) and me we played many times together. We are really [a] good team and we are also happy having Pedro (Martinez) and Alex (Alejandro Davidovich Fokina) on the team. I think they have a great future on the team competitions with Spain and I think we spend a good time on the court and off the. Court and it will be for sure a great week.”

Poland sweeps Georgia to stay undefeated

Poland set up a Group D showdown on Wednesday with undefeated Argentina by sweeping undermanned Georgia 3-0 at Ken Rosewall Arena Monday afternoon.

World No. 117 Kamil Majchrzak gave Poland a 1-0 lead after losing just two games during his 6-1, 6-1 route of No. 974 Aleksandre Bakshi that lasted just 53 minutes.

“I was trying to move [Bakshi] around and I think that was the key to the match,” Majchrzak said during an on-court interview after his win. He credited his coach Joakim Nystrom with helping him prepare on short notice after Georgia made changes to its lineup.

“I asked my coach to have a look at him just a little bit during warmup,” Majchrzak said during his team’s press conference. “Then, we discussed what I can do, and basically the point was to play my game from the beginning. Then, if needed, we would adjust.”

Next, Hurkacz steered clear of an upset when he faced No. 571 Aleksandre Metreveli of Georgia, who was originally slated to play Majchrzak but became a late replacement for World No. 22 Nikoloz Basilashvili. After losing the first set, Hurkacz came back to win 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1, in two hours and two minutes.

Hurkacz finished with 16 aces, won 80 percent of his first-serve points as well as 69 percent of his second-serve points and didn’t face a break point. He broke Metreveli’s serve four times in 10 tries.

“He played well in the first set and things were not going my way,” Hurkacz said. “But I got better with each set and am happy to get the win.

“It was different conditions from the first match on Qudos Bank Arena. The ball bounced a little higher and faster, so I needed to adapt. But it helped to have the Polish crowd here supporting us. They were great.”

Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski defeated Bakshi and Metreveli, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 10-6, to complete Poland’s 3-0 clean-sheet victory.

“Happy for the win for Team Poland,” Hurkacz said in press. “At the end, it’s the job to get a win. We did that. So happy for Kamil’s performance.”

Added Majchrzak: “Hubi had a nice match today with a little bit of emotions, with good tennis. So, we will both be ready for the Argentina task.”

Schwartzman clinches Argentina’s victory over Greece

Diego Schwartzman earned the third Top 5 win of his career with his 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3 victory over World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, which clinched Argentina’s victory over Greece in Group D play at Ken Rosewall Arena Monday evening.

The World No. 13 Schwartzman, representing Argentina for the third time, improved his career ATP Cup singles win-loss record to 4-4 after rallying from a set and a break down during his No. 1 singles match against Tsitsipas. His two-hour and 42-minute triumph lifted his career head-to-head against the Greek star to 2-1.

“I was just trying think that it was his first match for two months after his elbow [injury], so I was thinking just to try and be in the match,” Schwartzman said during his on-court interview. “I had the chance and I think I was ready. I am very happy because playing against Stefanos and being a set-and-a-break down is not easy, but I found a way.”

Schwartzman won 77 percent (50 of 65) of his first-serve points, saved three of four break points and broke Tsitsipas four times. He outpointed his opponent 112-95.

Tsitsipas said it was a good test to see where he’s at physically after having off-season elbow surgery. “It was good to see myself perform at such a level,” he said. “I didn’t expect it. It worked out better than I thought. I was able to hit balls that I was scared to hit two weeks ago, so heading towards the right direction.

“It was a very close match, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it despite losing again. I enjoyed fighting. I enjoyed the thrill of it. I enjoyed the atmosphere that the people created.”

Federico Delbonis of Argentina put his team on the scoreboard first with a 7-6 (5), 6-1 win over Michail Pervolarakis, which was his second win of the tournament. During Argentina’s post-match press conference, the 44th-ranked Delbonis said he was satisfied with his own performance and happy that his team remained undefeated.

“I think we both played good matches, especially Diego. I think he was unbelievable today, and I have to grants him. I think was a big, big match.”

Schwartzman added: “Yeah, and I think Federico gave me the confidence to be in the match 1-0 up and I think it’s always very, very important for us. He did the same the previous match, and this match. It was not easy, because Pervolarakis was playing very good the first set. It was tough. You never know what happens with these guys.”

Next, Argentina (2-0) faces Poland (2-0) with the winner advancing to the semifinal round.

Doubles decider wins tie for Chile over Serbia

Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo earned Chile its first ATP Cup tie victory by winning their doubles decider, 6-4, 3-6, 10-7, in 86 minutes over Serbia’s Nikola Cacic and Matej Sabanov in Group A play at Qudos Bank Arena. The match, which ended at 12:30 a.m. local time in Sydney, followed No. 17 Cristian Garin‘s win at No. 1 singles. He beat No. 33 Dusan Lajovic by retirement, ahead 3-0 in the third set after splitting the first two sets.

“We played an amazing match and I feel sorry for Dusan,” Garin said on court after earning his first ATP Cup singles win, which ended after two hours and 14 minutes. “It was so tough. I was going point-by-point in the second set and I’m so grateful to the Chilean support in the crowd.”

The Garin-Lajovic match included 23 break points and seven breaks of serve during the first set.

Earlier, 42nd-ranked Filip Krajinovic put Serbia ahead 1-0 after beating the 139th-ranked Tabilo, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5) in the No. 2 singles match.

“It was a great match with Krajinovic and I just needed to find the motivation again, on Centre Cristian won his match,” Tabilo said during an on-court interview following his doubles win with Barrios Vera.

Next, Chile (1-1) faces Norway (0-2) on Wednesday, while Serbia (1-1) meets Spain (2-0) in a repeat of the 2020 final.

Looking back at Monday

Looking ahead to Tuesday

By the numbers

With his 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1 victory over Aleksandre Metreveli of Georgia, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz improved his career ATP Cup singles record to 5-0. Meanwhile, Georgia’s Aleksandre Bakshi, ranked No. 974, played in his first tour-level singles match – and lost – against Kamil Majchrzak of Poland, 6-1, 6-1.

“Quotable …”

“I’m in a little bit of pain. That’s normal I served more serves than I have ever served at the last one month. I served not even – near 180 serves today, I think. I have been practicing, trying to get 50, 60 serves in, and today I really went far. Yeah, the fatigue at the end, but, you know, I tried to avoid the pain. Got to finish the match somehow.”

– Stefanos Tsitsipas, following his 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3 loss to Diego Schwartzman during Argentina’s 3-0 shut out win over Greece.