On paper, the Australians were heavy favorites to topple Kazakhstan in their Davis Cup quarter-final in Darwin but they had a disappointing start to their campaign with the loss in both the singles on the opening day. Captain Wally Masur decided to play Thanasi Kokkinakis in preference to the big-serving Sam Groth against Kazakhstan No.1 Mikhail Kukushkin. To Masur’s deep consternation, Kokkinakis fell as an easy meat as he lost to the Kazakh in straight sets to make it 0-1 for Australia. Matters became worse for Australia as their top men Nick Kyrgios also lost after a four-set battle with world No. 115 Aleksandr Nedovyesov. From the high expectations of reaching the World Group semifinals after 9 years, Australia now face the danger of elimination from the competition. With Friday’s debacle, Australia now face the uphill task of winning all the remaining matches over the next two days to realize their ambition.
Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Sam Groth and Bernard Tomic are regarded as great beacons of hope for Australia’s tennis revival on the world scene. They have been winning matches of late and much is expected of them in days to come. However, while Sam Groth was consigned to the side lines; Tomic was arrested in USA for allegedly refusing to turn down loud music while partying in his penthouse suite at a Miami Beach hotel.
At Darwin, Thanasi Kokkinakis faced Kazakhstan’s no.1 player Mikhail Kukushkin in the first match. The choice of 19-year old Kokkinakis might have been dictated by his remarkable comeback after losing the first two sets against Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol in Australia’s first-round tie in March 2015. But that couldn’t happen in his match with Kukushkin. The Kazakh pushed Kokkinakis on the back foot and broke the Australian teenager in the third game. That single break was enough for Kukushkin to take the first set from Kokkinakis, who made too many unforced errors. In the opening game of the second set, Kokkinakis began with another unforced error and slipped to 15-40 in the opening game. He couldn’t hold his serve. The Australian came back in the set with a break in the sixth game but squandered further chances to lose the seventh and ninth games on his own serve and that cost him the second set. In the third set, Kokkinakis lost his serve again in the second game and trailed 0-3 while the Kazakh kept the pressure and won the match 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
In the second match, it was expected that Nick Kyrgios would level things up for Australia on day one as he was facing world No.115 Aleksandr Nedovyesov. But Kyrgios began by losing the first set on tiebreak. The 20-year old Australian leveled the set score by winning the second set on tiebreak and took a 4-3 lead in the third set. But the wayward Kyrgios couldn’t capitalize on the advantage and allowed the set to go to the tiebreak. The Australian lost and his bodyline in the fourth set didn’t show that he wanted to continue. Bolstered by Kyrgios’ awkward stance, Nedovyesov raced on with his game, broke Kyrgios in the second game and finished a 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 winner.
With Kazakhstan breaking away to a 2-0 lead on the first day, Australia are in a deep hole and they have to win all the matches left in the tie.
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