Playing in front of jubilant home supporters, Australia literally outplayed Czech Republic and ensured their place in 2017 Davis Cup quarterfinals. After Nick Kyrgios and Jordan Thompson gave an early 2-0 lead to Australia on Friday, John Peers and Sam Groth won the doubles rubber against Czechs Jiri Vesely and Jan Satral for an assailable 3-0 lead. In Tokyo, France did the same against Japan. Bereft by the absence of world no.5 Kei Nishikori, Japan couldn’t hold fort against the powerful French crusade. On Friday, Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon had put France 2-0 ahead in scoring wins in singles rubbers over their Japanese counterparts Taro Daniel and Yoshihito Nishioka respectively. In Saturday’s doubles, the French dup Pierre Hughes-Herbert/Nicolas Mahut made it 3-0 by defeating Japan’s Yuichi Sugita/Yasutaka Uchiyama. Elsewhere, USA took the 2-0 lead against a depleted Switzerland at Birmingham, Alabama and Italy and Serbia also eked out 2-0 leads on Friday. While Italy took both singles rubber on Friday against defending champions Argentina at Buenous Aires; Serbia managed to win against Russia at Nis in obtaining the same 2-0 result. Belgium and Germany shared the honors at Frankfurt at 1-1. The 1-1 results also came from ties between Canada/Great Britain at Ottawa and Croatia/Spain at Osijek.
Australia led the world group Davis Cup field by becoming the first team to enter the quarterfinals on Saturday. Nick Kyrgios and Jordan Thompson had already assured a 2-0 lead on Friday. In Saturday’s doubles rubber, Australian duo of John Peers/Same Groth played powerfully against the Czechs Jiri Vesely/Jan Satral. With a partisan Melbourne crowd backing them to the hilt, Peers/Groth defeated Vesely/Satral 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in 90 minutes. Czech Republic missed the services of an injured Radek Stepanek and Satral had to play instead. The victory ensured that Australia move into the quarterfinals while Czech Republic will play in 2018 World Play-offs. The result has also left Sunday’s two singles rubbers as dead but Australia may like to attempt a clean sweep by winning both matches. Likewise in Tokyo, Frenchmen Pierre Hughes-Herbert/Nicolas Mahut took their nation to quarterfinals by defeating Japan’s Yuichi Sugita/Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Having already won Friday’s both singles rubber, France completed the 3-0 victory on Saturday. Hosts Japan may want to win at least one singles match on Sunday to prevent the complete whitewash.
In Buenos Aires, defending champion Argentina trailed 0-2 against Italy by losing both singles rubbers on Friday. In the opening singles, Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi quashed the challenge of Guido Pella with an easy 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory and later, Italian Andreas Seppi defeated Carlos Berlocq 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6. In Saturday’s doubles game, Simone Bolelli/Andreas Seppi will play against the Argentinians Leonardo Mayer/Diego Schwartzman. USA also took a 2-0 lead over Switzerland at home. In the first singles rubber, Jack Sock defeated Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 while John Isner took four sets to beat Henri Laaksonen 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6. Saturday’s doubles rubber will see the US pair of Steve Johnson/Sam Querrey taking on Switzerland’s Antoine Bellier/Adrien Bossel. In Serbia, the home side faced an unexpectedly stiff challenge from the young Russians but still took the 2-0 lead on Friday. In the first five-set rubber, Viktor Troicki defeated Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 while Novak Djokovic also lost a set before defeating Daniil Medvedev 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-0. On Saturday, Nenad Zimonjic/Viktor Troicki will face Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov/Konstantin Kravchuk.
At Osijek, Croatia took a 1-0 lead after Franko Skugor outlasted Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in a five-set duel at 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6. But the tie was squared, when Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Croatia’s Ante Pavic 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. At 1-1, the Saturday’s doubles rubber has become crucial, when Spaniards Feliciano Lopez/Marc Lopez take on Croatia’s Marin Draganja/Nikola Mektic. The 1-1 result also came from Frankfurt and Ottawa. Belgium’s Steve Darcis was true to his tag of Mr. Davis Cup as he defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 7-6, 7-6 in a long-drawn first singles rubber before Germany squared up in the second. Alexander Zverev didn’t need to work too hard in his 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Arthur de Greef. In Saturday’s important doubles rubber, Mischa Zverev/Jan-Lennard Struff will play against the Belgian duo of Ruben Bemelmans/Joris de Loore. In Ottawa, after GBR’s Dan Evans defeated Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, Vasek Pospisil squared up the tie by beating Britain’s Kyle Edmund 6-4, 6-1, 7-6. Both teams will do their best to extract the advantage in Saturday’s doubles, when Canadian veteran Daniel Nestor teams up with Vasek Pospisil to play against GBR’ Dominic Inglot/Jamie Murray.