From James Ward to Mario Ancic: Top five Davis Cup heroes

Sport360 staff 22/09/2016
Passion: Ward, Troicki, Verdasco, Antic and Stepanek.

Leonardo Mayer proved a hero for Argentina as he won the decisive fifth rubber against Dan Evans to give the visitors a 3-2 win over GB in Glasgow to reach the Davis Cup final last weekend.

Here are other supporting cast players who have shone in recent years…

James Ward

Wasn’t a decisive fifth rubber but Ward’s upset over US No. 1 John Isner, 15-13 in the fifth, in the first round last year is arguably the reason GB won the whole thing.

Radek Stepanek

In 2012, in the 100th Davis Cup final, a 33-year-old Stepanek won the fifth rubber against Fernando Verdasco to give the Czechs a 3-2 win over Spain.

Fernando Verdasco

Facing Argentina in Argentina is always a monster challenge but that didn’t stop Verdasco from beating Jose Acasuso to seal a 3-1 final win for Spain in 2008.

Viktor Troicki

After Novak Djokovic levelled the 2010 Davis Cup final at 2-2, Troicki was the one who sealed it for Serbia, beating Michael Llodra for a win over France.

Mario Ancic

Aged 21, Ancic helped Croatia win a first Davis Cup title in 2005 by beating Michal Mertinak in a decisive fifth rubber for a 3-2 win over Slovakia in Bratislava.

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Down the line: No rest for the weary as fight for tennis finales is on

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Braced for battle: Rafael Nadal.

The grand slam season is over but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t plenty to play for on both tours.

While the Asian swing and the European indoor stretch upon us may not necessarily attract the same kind of attention that comes with the majors, this is when the race to London, for the men, and Singapore for the women, heats up as the higher-ranked players scramble for the remaining qualification spots at the tours’ prestigious top-eight finales.

Stan Wawrinka joined Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray as the three men to have already secured places at the ATP World Tour Finals (November 13-20), after the Swiss lifted the US Open trophy nine days ago.

There are still five spots up for grabs, with 1,460 points separating Rafael Nadal, currently at No8 in the race, and Roberto Bautista Agut, who is at No16.

Nadal missed a slam and a half with a wrist injury and will be looking to make up for lost time by finishing strong in the last seven weeks of the season.

The Spaniard is scheduled to compete in Beijing, Shanghai, Basel and Paris-Bercy, where a total of 2,500 points are on offer.

ATP Race

Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori are both in solid positions to make it to the O2 Arena in London for a second and third time respectively.

Some exciting new faces might qualify for the first time, including the likes of Dominic Thiem and Gael Monfils, who is definitely not a new face on tour but would be a Finals debutant should he hold onto his top-eight status.

Just imagine Monfils playing under the lights at a fantastic venue like the O2. That would be a performance that can rival that of the Rolling Stones at the same arena in 2007. The worry with Monfils is injuries. He pulled out of Davis Cup with a knee problem and is scheduled to play the Japan Open next, which starts on October 3.

Thiem will need a burst of energy to survive the home stretch of 2016. The 23-year-old has played 69 matches already this season, winning 52 of them, and he admitted that he may have mismanaged his schedule a little bit. The young Austrian has won four titles this year and has contested 22 events (including Davis Cup) in nine months. You’d think he’d take his foot off the gas pedal for a while but he’s playing both singles and doubles in Metz this week.

Here’s hoping Thiem makes it to London in one piece.

Nick Kyrgios is currently at No13, although with Roger Federer out for the rest of the season, he is virtually four spots off the cut-off. He’s another player who could light up the O2.

WTA Race

On the women’s side, only Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams have qualified for Singapore and you wonder if the latter will even show up to the event.

She pulled out of it last year following her shock defeat to Roberta Vinci at the US Open and her participation could be in doubt again this season, considering she has had some injury struggles in 2016, including a knee problem that hampered her in New York.

Fresh faces to look out for would be American Madison Keys (No9 in the race), who has made the second week at all four grand slams this year. Keys’ last seven events look like this: US Open – fourth round, Olympics – semi-finalist, Montreal – finalist, Wimbledon – fourth round, Birmingham – champion, French Open – fourth round, Rome – finalist. That stretch alone deserves a ticket to Singapore. She’s featuring in a stacked Tokyo draw this week where she is seeded fifth.

Maiden berths for US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova and Britain’s Johanna Konta, and long-awaited WTA Finals returns for Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova could also be in the cards.

The week that was

* Had Argentina squandered a 2-0 lead and lost to Great Britain in Davis Cup last weekend, Juan Martin del Potro opting for doubles and missing the reversed singles would have been considered the biggest coaching blunder at the competition in recent history. Lucky for the Argentines, Leonardo Mayer stepped up and won the decisive rubber to beat Great Britain at home in Glasgow. Our curiosity remains though for an explanation behind that choice.

* In Quebec, French teenager Oceane Dodin won her first WTA title with a win over Lauren Davis in the final. There’s lots to like about the 19-year-old. She’s fearless, goes for broke and made her top-100 debut yesterday. Keep an eye out for her!

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Spain see off India in Davis Cup

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Nadal celebrates victory.

Indian tennis fans finally got their wish of witnessing the Rafael Nadal magic in New Delhi on Saturday as the 14-time Grand Slam champion propelled Spain to a doubles win over India in the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie at the RK Khanna Tennis Stadium. Nadal and Marc Lopez proved why they are the reigning Olympic champions as they came back from a set down to carve out a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4 victory in 3 hours 23 minutes.

It meant Spain took an unassailable 3-0 lead over India having claimed wins in the singles rubbers on the opening day, putting the visitors back into the World Group after a two year absence.

With the evergreen 43-year-old Leander Paes partnering Saketh Myneni, a thrilling encounter was promised and the match truly lived up to the crowd’s expectations.

In a dramatic opening set, the Spaniards asserted themselves early on by breaking Paes’ serve to take a 4-1 lead. But the set was turned on its head by the Indian duo as the Spanish pair conceded two breaks of serve. Much to the delight of the spectators, the hosts won five games in a row to grab the first set 6-4.

Paes and Myneni broke again in the second set, putting themselves in pole position but the Spaniards rallied.

The 119th ranked Myneni faltered while serving out the second set at 5-4. His choice of a drop volley on break point backfired as Spain restored parity. Nadal was growing in confidence and the Spaniards raced through the ensuing tie-break to level matters at one set apiece.

Nadal and Lopez attacked with authority in the third set and the 18-time Grand Slam champion Paes crumbled under pressure. The Olympic gold medallists capitalized, marching into a two-sets-to-one lead.

However, the fourth set was a totally different affair as Paes and Myneni again made inroads to the Nadal serve, racing into a 4-1 lead.

The match appeared to be heading to a decider but another twist in the tale was lying in waiting. In a mirror image of the first set, the 4-1 lead was erased as this time the Spanish team launched its comeback.

They broke the Indians twice to dash all hopes of the hosts, but for the watching crowd there was still reverence to be had in watching Nadal instigate victory at the Indian’s expense.

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