Alexander Zverev's statement wins, Cameron Norrie's stunning debut and more takeaways from Davis Cup round one

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A thrilling weekend of Davis Cup action has come to an end and defending champions France are still alive after surviving a tough tie against Netherlands, playing without Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils.

The French are through to the quarter-finals for a ninth consecutive year, thanks to Adrian Mannarino’s five-set win over Robin Haase to secure a 3-1 triumph for the hosts in Albertville, and they next take on Italy, who overcame Japan.

Here’s a look at the main takeaways from an eventful three days of Davis Cup clashes.

CAM’S DEBUT

On paper, the tie pitting Great Britain against Spain, on clay, in Spain, looked like a slam dunk for the hosts. And while the Spaniards ended up winning and advancing to the quarter-finals for just the second time in six years, the showdown was a lot tighter than expected and it’s all thanks to brilliant debutant Cameron Norrie.

Playing his first Davis Cup rubber for Great Britain on Friday, Norrie, ranked 114 in the world, had never contested an ATP or Challenger-level match on clay. In front of a buoyant Marbella crowd, Norrie stunned Spanish world No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut by coming back from two sets down and taking the win in five.

“That’s one of the most amazing wins/results/upsets I’ve seen in a long time on a tennis court. Well done to Cam Norrie and all the team,” tweeted Andy Murray after the match.

We have to agree with the Scot.

But Norrie’s heroics didn’t stop there. In the fourth rubber against world No. 21 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Norrie stretched the 2016 French Open quarter-finalist to four sets before surrendering. A stunning effort from the 22-year-old!

SIGNIFICANT RESULT IN BRISBANE

Alexander Zverev’s straight-sets win over Nick Kyrgios that sealed a 3-1 triumph for Germany over Australia in Brisbane carries a lot of weight.

For Zverev, it was his first success over a top-50 player in a best-of-five match and it comes on the heels of his disappointing third round loss to Chung Hyeon at the Australian Open. He also fought off inspired debutant Alex de Minaur in five sets in the first rubber (Zverev trailed two sets to one and won in a fifth-set tiebreak). Both wins will no doubt lift the 20-year-old’s spirits and he can use that to tackle a season where he is defending a lot of points, having won five titles last year.

For Kyrgios, this was definitely a big blow considering how highly he rates Davis Cup and how much he wanted to win the whole thing, not just the first round. The 22-year-old draws a lot of confidence and positivity from his performances for Australia and must be deeply disappointed by this result, compounded by the fact he wasn’t 100 per cent fit to compete (his elbow injury hampered his performance).

Still, Kyrgios has shown lots of encouraging signs during the Australian summer, winning the title in Brisbane before making the fourth round in Melbourne and this Davis Cup defeat should not derail his progress.

CORIC RISES IN ALL-NEXT GEN BATTLE

Only one spot separates Borna Coric (47) from Denis Shapovalov (48) in the world rankings, and they both belong to the ATP’s so-called Next Gen group of players, aged 21-and-under. But on court for the fourth rubber of the tie between Croatia and Canada in Osijek, the three-year age difference was evident as Coric, 21, eased past the 18-year-old Shapovalov in straight sets to secure a quarter-final berth for the hosts.

Coric made his Davis Cup debut in 2013, and has been nominated nine times. Shapovalov on the other hand made his debut for Canada in 2016 and has got four nominations to his name.

Playing for his country, and in front of his home crowd, it was Coric’s extra three years of experience that prevailed over the talented Shapovalov.

GLORIOUS GOFFIN

David Goffin’s commitment to Davis Cup continues to pay off for the Belgians, who are through to the World Group quarter-finals for a third time in the last four years. Goffin has won 19 of his last 20 Davis Cup singles rubbers and his two singles victories over the weekend proved crucial for the home side’s triumph over Hungary in Liege.

RIOS’ FINE

Former world No. 1 Marcelo Rios was filmed being abusive to reporters during Chile’s Americas Zone Group I first round tie against Ecuador in Santiago. Rios, who is the assistant team captain for Chile insulted the media and was handed a $2,500.

Why do previous players like Rios – and Ilie Nastase who was suspended for unacceptable behaviour during a Romania-Great Britain Fed Cup tie last year – insist on being part of Davis/Fed Cup when they have no intention of treating the media with respect and behaving themselves? A $2,500 fine seems way too lenient!

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Davis Cup: Nick Kyrgios v Alexander Zverev and other things to look forward to this weekend

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Best of frenemies: Kyrgios and Zverev.

Davis Cup has come under fire in recent years with many players and fans calling for changes to the format and structure in order to ensure that all the top stars can participate without it adding too much load to their already stacked schedules.

A long list of marquee players, like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are missing this weekend’s World Group first round ties, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to look forward to over the next few days.

Here are a few reasons to tune into the Davis Cup World Group action this weekend…

KYRGIOS-ZVEREV NO. 5

The young rivalry between Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev will take centre stage in Brisbane on Sunday in what promises to be an exciting showdown between Australia and Germany. The tie is likely to still be alive by day three and Kyrgios-Zverev could prove to be the crucial rubber to seal it for either side. Kyrgios leads Zverev 3-1 head-to-head and has more experience representing his country than the German world No. 5.

Zverev is contesting just his third Davis Cup tie (is 1-4 win-loss in the competition) while Kyrgios has won five of his last six Davis Cup rubbers.

Following a disappointing third round loss for Zverev to Chung Hyeon at the Australian Open, success this weekend could be the perfect pick-me-up for him, while Kyrgios, who has long said he dreams of winning Davis Cup for Australia, will be fired up with the backing of the home crowd.

THE DEBUTANTS

Some exciting young faces look set to make their Davis Cup debuts this weekend, including Australia’s Alex de Minaur, who opens the tie against Zverev on Friday.

De Minaur, who turns 19 this month, had an incredible Australian summer, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane (took out Milos Raonic en route) and the final in Sydney (beat Fernando Verdasco, Benoit Paire and Feliciano Lopez en route), before losing his first round to Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open. It will be interesting to see how the talented teen fares with the pressure of playing for his country.

Others set to make their debut are Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Liam Broady, who have been tasked to take on the Spaniards in Marbella, with Kyle Edmund not fit enough following his heroic run to the Australian Open semi-finals.

CROATIA v CANADA LIKELY TO DELIVER

While Croatia are on a four-tie winning streak on clay – the surface they’re playing on against Canada this weekend – they have also lost five of their last six home ties.

World No. 3 Marin Cilic is exhausted and jet-lagged having played the Australian Open final last Sunday in Melbourne. He is with the team in Osijek but is regarded as the fifth player, who can be fielded if necessary throughout the weekend but is currently not part of the line-up, with the Croatians now led by Borna Coric in singles.

Coric will open the tie against Peter Polansky, while Viktor Galovic will contest his first-ever Davis Cup live rubber when he takes on Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in the second singles on Friday.

The Canadians are led by teenager Shapovalov, who has a 3-2 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles rubbers. Canada are looking to end a four-tie losing streak away from home.

An all-NextGen clash between Coric and Shapovalov will be a mouth-watering prospect on Sunday.

DEFENDING CHAMPS LEFT TSONGA-LESS

Title holders France made a last-minute change to their five-man squad with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulling out of their tie against Netherlands injured and replaced by Adrian Mannarino.

The French will be led by Lucas Pouille, clinched the deciding rubber in last year’s final against Belgium to give his country a first Davis Cup title since 2001, and Richard Gasquet in singles. The Dutch have Thiemo de Bakker and Robin Haase as their singles players, with doubles star Jean-Julien Rojer taking centre stage on Saturday alongside Mattwe Middelkoop.

NEW RULES

A few changes have been introduced to Davis Cup in 2018 including the following rules:

– The introduction of five-man teams in the 2018 World Group and Zone Groups I and II.

– Amendments to the dead rubber policy across the World Group and Zone Groups I and II now mean that no fifth rubber will be played if the fourth rubber is decisive, the same as the current rule for the Davis Cup Final.

– In the World Group, only the fourth rubber will be played if the score is 3-0. The fourth rubber will be best-of-three tiebreak sets.

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Davis Cup: Stats you need to know as France host Netherlands, Spain face GB and Australia take on Germany

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Defending champs France host Netherlands this weekend.

There is Davis Cup action this weekend taking place across the globe with last year’s finalists both playing with a home-court advantage as defending champions France host the Netherlands in Albertville, and runners-up Belgium host Hungary in Liege.

Some nations are missing their biggest stars with Spain hosting Great Britain without an injured Rafael Nadal, and the Brits fielding a team without Andy Murray, who is recovering from hip surgery.

Serbia are Novak Djokovic-less in their home tie against USA while Switzerland face Kazakhstan sans Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.

Here’s a look at the standout statistics ahead of this weekend’s Davis Cup World Group matches.

1 – Spain’s top player this weekend in their tie against Great Britain, Pablo Carreno Busta, has won just one of the four live rubbers he has ever contested in Davis Cup.

1 – win and four losses for Germany’s top man this weekend, Alexander Zverev, in Davis Cup.

2 – Only twice have all five rubbers of a Davis Cup tie gone to 5 sets – the 1946 European Zone semi-final that saw Yugoslavia defeat France 3-2 and the 2003 World Group play-off when Romania defeated Ecuador 3-2.

2 – Japan are bidding to reach the World Group quarter-finals for just the second time.

3 – France joined Great Britain in third place on the list of most Davis Cup titles won when they triumphed over Belgium in the final last year to claim a 10th trophy in the competition.

4 – Serbia have won four of their last five home ties. They host USA in Nis this weekend.

5 – years since Serbia have last won a tie on clay. They play USA on indoor clay this weekend.

5 – Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut is on a five-match winning streak in Davis Cup. He’ll be looking to extend that when they face GB this weekend in Marbella.

5 – Great Britain are looking to reach the quarter-finals for a fifth straight year.

5 – Australia have played five of their last six ties at home. They host Germany in Brisbane this weekend.

5 – Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has won five of his last six Davis Cup rubbers, with the only  loss coming against David Goffin in the semi-finals last year.

6 – hours and 43 minutes, is the length of the longest singles rubber in Davis Cup history. It took place when Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer defeated Brazil’s Joao Souza in the World Group first round in 2015.

7 – France have won seven of their last eight home ties in Davis Cup.

7 – Great Britain’s Jamie Murray has won seven of his last eight Davis Cup doubles rubbers.

9 – France are bidding to reach the quarter-finals for a ninth consecutive year.

10 – wins and 0 losses for France against the Netherlands in their Davis Cup history. They square off in Albertville, France this weekend. Their most recent meeting was in 2009.

10 – comebacks from 0-2 down in Davis Cup World Group ties have ever been completed. Sweden has produced four of these comebacks. Croatia recorded the most recent one, defeating USA in Portland in the quarter-finals in 2016.

13 – Andreas Seppi is competing in Davis Cup for the 13th year, putting him joint-third on the list for most years played by an Italian player, along with current captain Corrado Barazzutti.

14 – Great Britain and Spain are meeting for a 14th time in Davis Cup but the first since 1986. The Brits lead their head-to-head 8-5.

15 – nations in total have ever won the Davis Cup with USA leading with 32 title wins in the competition.

17 – Belgium’s David Goffin has won 17 of his last 18 Davis Cup singles rubbers.

24 – wins and 10 losses for Marin Cilic in Davis Cup singles rubbers – the most by any Croatian. He could equal Ivan Ljubicic’s record for most Davis Cup match wins by a Croatian player (in singles and doubles) if he triumphs in three rubbers this weekend against Canada in Osijek.

25 – Italy’s Fabio Fognini could reach 25 Davis Cup match wins if he claims a rubber this weekend against Japan. He is currently 24-11 overall in the competition and has competed for his nation every year since 2008.

25 – years since Germany last won the Davis Cup (they are three-time champions in the competition).

28 – years since Belgium and Hungary last squared off in Davis Cup. Their last meeting was in 1990, before seven of the nine players nominated for this weekend’s tie in Liege were born.

86 – years since Japan and Italy had last played each other in Davis Cup. They face off this weekend in Morioka.

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