The quarterfinal line-up for Davis Cup matches beginning April 7, 2017 has emerged with clarity as Italy, Belgium, USA, Great Britain, Serbia and Spain joined Australia and France. USA were the only team to complete a clean sweep of Switzerland but the most notable result was delivered by Italy in defeating 2016 champions Argentina, who fought until the very end. In the last singles rubber, the doughty Italian Fabio Fognini fought from a 2-set deficit before beating home hero Guido Pella. In another turnaround, last year’s runners-up Croatia lost both singles rubber on Sunday to hand over the 2-1 advantage to Spain. Great Britain also made the QF grade by winning the last singles rubber by default as the match was marred by a bizarre incident. Full of anger, Canadian teenager Denis Shapavalov struck chair umpire’s eye with a hard-hit ball and Canada were defaulted on that count. In three other quarterfinals in April, USA take on Australia; Italy play against Belgium and Serbia meet Spain.
USA had already sealed the quarterfinals berth on Saturday with Jack Sock/Steve Johnson scoring a 7-6, 6-3, 7-6 victory over Adrien Bossel/Henri Laaksonen. Australia completed the 5-0 sweep in Sunday’s reverse singles with Sam Querrey beating Adrien Bossel 6-3, 7-5 and Steve Johnson finishing the tie by beating Antoine Bellier 6-4, 6-3. In April, USA will travel to Australia for playing the quarterfinals. On their part, Australia proved too good for Czech Republic. Going into Sunday’s last two singles rubbers, Australia had already won the tie 3-0 on Saturday with Sam Groth/John Peers trouncing Jiri Veseley/Jan Satral 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. In first reverse singles on Sunday, Jordan Thompson made it 4-0 with a 7-6, 6-2 win over Jan Satral but Jiri Vesely extracted a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 consolation victory over Sam Groth.
Like USA, Serbia and Australia, France also secured a quarterfinal berth on Saturday by winning the doubles rubber. Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut defeated Yuichi Sugita/Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to make it 3-0 for France. In Sunday’s first reverse singles, Yasutaka Uchiyama gave Japan something to cheer about by beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 6-4. However, France won the tie 4-1 in the second singles. Nicolas Mahut took the first set off Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1 but the Japanese retired due to a wrist injury. In April, France will host Great Britain in the quarterfinal. The GBR-Canada tie climaxed at 2-2, with the last singles rubber holding the key. That match was played between GBR’s Kyle Edmund and 17-year old Canadian Denis Shapavalov. The Brit played far better than Shapavalov in taking two sets 6-3, 6-4 and led 2-1 in the third. However, the play was stopped at that point, when a powerfully-struck ball from Shapavalov hit the chair umpire’s eye. Though it was all unintentional, Shapovalov was defaulted for showing needless anger and GBR ended up 3-2 winners.
Italy’s victory over defending champions Argentina didn’t come on a platter. The visitors had won both singles on Friday but Argentina fought back with the vengeance in Saturday’s doubles rubber and almost won both reverse singles on Sunday. All three rubbers went to five sets but Fabio Fognini, spoiled the Argentine party with a miraculous display in the deciding second singles rubber. In the doubles, Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq/Leonardo Mayer fought hard and defeated Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6. And when, Berlocq beat Paolo Lorenzi 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the first singles on Sunday, Argentina were back in the reckonings. In the decisive fifth rubber, Argentina’s Guido Pella raced away to a 2-0 sets lead and the joy of home fans knew no bounds. But Fognini fought back from the brink and won the tie for Italy with a memorable 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory. In the Quarterfinals, Italy will host Belgium in April.
In another first-round shocker, runners-up Croatia, surrendered a 2-1 lead by losing both reverse singles rubbers on Sunday. The home side needed to win just one more rubber but that didn’t materialize. In Sunday’s first singles rubber, Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Franko Skugor 6-1, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 and in the last rubber, Pablo Carreno Busta the Croat Nokola Mektic 7-6, 6-1, 6-4. Spain will travel to Serbia for their quarterfinal tie in April. On their part, Serbia had already secured the quarterfinal spot on Saturday by winning the doubles, when Nenad Zimonjic/Viktor Troicki defeated Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov/Konstantin Kravchuk 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. On Sunday, Serbia consolidated by winning the first reverse singles, when Dusan Lajovic beat Konstantin Kravhcuk 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. The second match was not played.
In the most surprising result of the week, fancied Germany lost at home against Belgium. After sharing the two singles on Friday, the Belgian pair of Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore outlasted the Zverev brothers Alexander and Mischa 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in the doubles. Already under pressure, Germany lost first reverse singles rubber on Sunday, when Davis Cup specialist Steve Darcis defeated higher-rated Alexander Zverev 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6. Later, Belgium made it 4-1 with Ruben Bemelmans beating Mischa Zverev 7-5, 6-1. The Belgians will travel to Italy in April for their quarterfinal tie.