Kazakhstan fights back against Sweden to gain control of Group B
Source: KTF press-service
Sweden’s hopes of automatic qualification slipped from their grasp as Kazakhstan fought back to gain pole position in Group B
Kazakhstan fought all the way back against Sweden in Madrid to leave Group B hanging in the balance. After Elias Ymer (SWE) secured an impressive 63, 76(4) win against Mikhail Kukushkin, the Swedes had two opportunities to guarantee their spot in the quarter-finals, but they were denied both times.
First, Alexander Bublik recovered to beat Mikael Ymer 36, 64, 60 before the duo of Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov beat Andre Goransson and Robert Lindstedt 63, 63 in the doubles.
Automatic qualification is now in Kazakhstan’s hands - victory over Canada on Sunday will secure it - and captain Yuriy Schukin was very pleased with his side’s performance.
«It definitely was a tough match. Basically I'm happy for my team that they could get rhythm. Like Alex [Bublik], with his serve, with his strokes. This I think gives us a lot of confidence. Andrey and Aleksandr I think played really good level of doubles too. For tomorrow, the guys are ready. We know the court. We’re going to definitely give our best.»
Sweden, meanwhile, are also in a strong position to potentially clinch one of the two quarter-final spots reserved for the best-placed Group runners-up, but they will have to wait and see. Ultimately it was a frustrating day for them and Lindstedt pulled no punches with his assessment afterwards.
«I think we let ourselves down a little bit today», he said. «Andre and I didn't come up to the standard that we both want. I don't think we played a particularly good match today, which sucks a bit.»
The day had actually begun well for Sweden as Elias Ymer quickly won the first set against Kukushkin thanks to strong serving and a flurry of winners from the baseline.
As the Swede’s explosive groundstrokes did damage, it brought to mind his words from Thursday. «When my forehand is on, I'm very difficult to play», he'd said after beating Steven Diez (CAN), and now Kukushkin was on the receiving end.
But with 26 Davis Cup wins to his name, Kukushkin was never going to go down easily. Like an old car that takes a while to get going, he whirred into life at the start of the second set as the match became a real tussle, the quality and drama rising with every game.
Kukushkin began to threaten Ymer’s service games with regularity, and two consecutive breaks changed the outlook of the match, as the Swede went from 3-2 in front to 5-4 down.
Over to Mikael and it looked for a while like the younger Ymer brother might see Sweden across the line himself. He began the match well, saving all four break points he faced as he secured the opener.
The second set was nip and tuck, with Ymer’s biggest opportunity coming at 3-3 when his backhand pass was denied by the top of the net on break point. Bublik, meanwhile, raised his level when it mattered most. Despite not generating a single break point through the first nine games, a sudden delicate drop shot and a thunderous forehand gave him set point, which went his way as Ymer double faulted.
The final set was never close. As Ymer’s level dropped, Bublik began to properly express himself, playing quickly and applying pressure at every turn. The World No.36 closed out his fifth win in his last six Davis Cup matches with ease and he said afterwards that his strong record in the event is no coincidence.
«I take Davis Cup more seriously than singles tour because I'm not only playing for myself», he admitted. «That’s why I think so far my record is okay. I try to take [it] seriously, from the beginning of a practice camp until the last match we’re going to play here. When I play ATP, it’s only me and I can do whatever I want. If I don’t want to play, I can just leave the court. Here I’m playing for much more, for the country, for the fans, and it’s extra. I try to keep it real, keep it serious.»
«When we play we have 100% attention from the media, from the TV, in a way that every kid, every parent can see, can enjoy, can support us, and this will help the tennis structure.»
With the Kazakh side now up and running, there would soon be much more for the travelling contingent of fans to celebrate. After a tight start to the doubles, the experienced pair of Golubev and Nedovseyov really took over against Lindstedt and Goransson. They were sharper at the net, more dominant behind their serves, and far better at creating opportunities on return. They closed it out confidently.
More of the same on Sunday against Canada and Kazakhstan will be through to the quarter-finals for the sixth time. Golubev, who claimed sole ownership of 2nd place on the list for most Davis Cup doubles matches won by a Kazakh player, knows the significance of this competition.
«I think it's important for every country, especially for us in terms of development of tennis, attention of the tennis. When we play we have 100% attention from the media, from the TV, in a way that every kid, every parent can see, can enjoy, can support us, and this will help the tennis structure, to bring more kids, more people to the tennis, which is the goal of our federation.»
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