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Epic Davis Cup First Round Needs Extra Time

andymurray

One of the great rounds in Davis Cup was so good, it needed an extra day. Because of the longest singles in Davis Cup history time-wise (and the second longest by games), the Argentina-Brazil tie in Buenos Aires couldn’t finish on Sunday before it became too dark.

The only outdoor tie of the first round was, therefore, set to resume on Monday, and Argentina was leading for the first time, with Federico Delbonis up 6-3 against Thomaz Bellucci when bad light stopped play. The spectators didn’t care, not after watching Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer and Brazil’s Joao Souza thrill for 6 hours, 43 minutes in high temperatures.

Mayer won the first two sets 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). Souza won the next two 7-5, 7-5. More frequently, the players needed massages between games, they kept breaking each others serves, and the tension kept ratcheting up. When Mayer made the final decisive break on his 11th match point, he barely had enough strength to return to the dressing room to be treated for dehydration.

Souza, still remarkably standing after winning a five-hour, five-setter on Friday, said: “We both deserved the victory, to me … but one guy had to lose the match.”

If Argentina, who hasn’t lost to Brazil in 40 years, wins, it will host Serbia in the quarterfinals from July 17-19. If Brazil wins, it will travel to Serbia. The other quarterfinals are: Britain hosting France, Australia welcoming Kazakhstan, and Belgium at home to Canada.

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France, runner-up last year, and Britain will meet for the 21st time, but first time since 1992. France beat Germany 3-2 in Frankfurt with a day to spare. Germany has not beaten France since 1938.

Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils won their singles, and then Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut, on debut, won the doubles in straight sets. By July, France might have back the injured Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet to face Andy Murray.

Murray led the Brits past the United States 3-2 in Glasgow, in the same manner that they won in San Diego last year.

Murray won both of his singles, and the wild card was, again, James Ward. Ranked 111, Ward beat 20th-ranked John Isner 15-13 in the fifth, after almost five hours on Friday. Serbia was the only other team to reach an unbeatable 3-0 lead on Saturday, at home to Croatia. Top-ranked Novak

Djokovic, who skipped Davis Cup last year, won two points, and the recalled Viktor Troicki came from two sets and a break down to beat Croatia No. 1 Borna Coric. Serbia added both dead rubbers on Sunday to hand a depleted Croatia its first whitewash in 12 years.

In Ostrava, Australia eased to its first quarterfinal since 2006 when Bernard Tomic beat Lukas Rosol 7-6 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (5), improving to 14-2 in cup play. The Czechs were up against it without stalwarts Tomas Berdych (unavailable) and Radek Stepanek (injured), but Rosol blew their chance on Friday when he led by two sets and a break against teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis, and lost.

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Australia stand in the way of a first semi-final appearance for Kazakhstan, which reached a third straight quarterfinal, and fourth in five years, by taking out a strong Italy line-up 3-2 in Astana.

Italy led 2-1 going into Sunday’s reverse singles, but Mikhail Kukushkin defeated Andreas Seppi in straight sets to even the tie. For the decider, the Kazakhs surprisingly picked Aleksandr Nedovyesov, who lost his only previous cup singles 10 years ago. Ranked 130, he was pitted against the 22nd-ranked Fabio Fognini, who beat Rafael Nadal on clay just over two weeks ago.

Nedovyesov stunned even his own team, winning 7-6 (5), 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. His teammates threw him in the air.

“To play for my country, the deciding match – the fifth rubber, to play against a top-20 player, being down 2-1, and winning it in five – it’s incredible,” he said.

The tie in Vancouver also went to a decider, as hometown player Vasek Pospisil, playing a third straight day yet with more in the tank, beat Go Soeda 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 for Canada to edge Japan for the first time. The tie reached that point only after No. 4-ranked Kei Nishikori pipped No. 6 Milos Raonic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, in another typically tight match between them.

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Canada’s only previous wins, since the World Group was introduced in 1981, were both last year, when they beat Spain and Italy to reach the semis. Now they will face Belgium for the first time in 102 years.

Switzerland, despite being the defending champion, wasn’t expected to offer much of a challenge to Belgium in Liege without the unavailable Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. Then Henri Laaksonen produced the best wins of his life in five-setters against Ruben Bemelmans on Friday and Steve Darcis on Sunday, setting up another decider on Sunday.

That’s when Belgium had the luxury of calling on 21st-ranked David Goffin, who missed the first two days to rest a back injury. Still in pain, he dispatched Adrien Bossel 6-4, 6-0, 6-4 to send Belgium into its first quarterfinal in eight years.

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