Davis Cup tennis was in full swing over the past several days, as Switzerland, France, Italy and the Czech Republic all advanced out of mostly tight quarterfinal matchups. Seventeen-time grand slam champion Roger Federer lifted the Swiss team over unheralded Kazakhstan after rallying from one set down to defeat Mikhail Kukushkin; Gael Moinfils won the deciding match over Peter Gojowczyk to eliminate Germany; Italy came back from a 2-1 hole to move past Great Britain in the round’s only one-sided pairing, and the Czech Republic dominated Japan 5 matches to none.
The heavily-favored Swiss needed a decisive fifth match to overtake a Kazakhstan side manned by Kukushkin and Andrey Golubev, the world’s 56th and 64th players, respectively, despite playing at home on their choice of indoor hard courts. Switzerland entered Saturday’s doubles match teaming Federer and Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka tied 1-1 after splitting their opening matches. The duo then fell behind 2-1 after they were shocked 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 by the team of Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Golubev. The Swiss would rebound, however, securing the 3-2 victory with singles wins by Federer and Wawrinka in the round’s final two matches.
France also needed a deciding match to get past Germany in its quarterfinal. Both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julien Benneteau dropped their opening matches to put the French team behind 2-0, but the team of Benneteau and Michael Llorda pulled to within 2-1 after topping the doubles team of Tobias Kamke and Peter Gojowczyk 6-1, 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. Tsonga then avenged his earlier loss to Gojowczyk with a straight set victory over Kamke to even the score at 2-2, setting up a dramatic 5th match in which Monfils easily cruised past Gojowczyk in straight sets 6-1, 7-6, 6-2.
Italy capped a thrilling quarterfinal round of Davis Cup tennis with its come from behind 3-2 victory over Andy Murray and Great Britain Sunday. The English men have failed to get out of the quarterfinal round for the past thirty-three years and this result, featuring a clay court in Naples and clay court specialists Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini, would be no different. With the Brtits leading 2-1, Fognini made easy work of Murray to pull the score even at 2-2, handling the two-time grand slam champion in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. The quarterfinal tie then went to a decisive fifth match where Andreas Seppi defeated Great Britain’s James Ward 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, sending Italy to the semifinals for the first time in 16 years.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, the 2013 Davis Cup Champion, faced the least resistance of all the quarterfinalists, winning all of its matches in cruising past overmatched Japan 5-0. Both sides competed without their respective number one players. Top Czech player Tomas Berdych, who was instrumental in last year’s Davis Cup win over Serbia, sat out to focus on the ATP Tour, while Japan no.1 Kei Nishikori was sidelined with a groin injury. World no. 48 Lukas Rosol and no. 67 Jiri Vesely stepped in and won their respective Davis Cup matches in straight sets to move into the semifinal round. Rosol defeated 20-year-old Yasatuka Uchiyama 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 and Vesely dominated 19-year-old Taro Daniel in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat