The weekend of the Davis Cup World Group Semi finals has brought us passionate players, captains and spectators, tight, tense singles matches, dominant doubles wins and a lot of emotions. France and Belgium conquered, leaving plenty of amazing tennis from all teams to look back on. All four countries played with determination and focus and the passion shone through, even from players not on court. The team mentality of all the countries is perhaps what makes the Davis Cup so compelling to watch, and these ties did not fail to disappoint.
The French victory seemed to be certain after the decisive doubles win. The presence of Mahut and Herbert seemed to much for Krajinovic and Zimonjic, as the experienced Grand Slam winners only dropped two points on serve in the first set and dominated throughout, only needing 1 hour 48 minutes to win. This pair is wonderful to watch, especially in their celebrations!
Having defeated Laslo Djere in straight sets in the second rubber France’s victory was resting on Tsonga’s shoulders after this successful doubles match, as he faced world number 80 Lajovic. Tsonga struggled in the first set but put in a dominant display in the last three, getting 72% of first serves in, winning 81% of them, leading France into another Davis Cup final, with a win of 2-6 6-2 7-6 6-2.
In the other semi final the pressure mounted for Goffin, who was facing Kyrgios, a man who he’d lost to in all their other three meetings. Belgium were 2-1 down, having lost the doubles, as Australian’s Peers and Thompson, in their first doubles match together, prevailed. It was a must win for David Goffin. Kyrgios clinched the first set with a tiebreak, making an Australian victory look certain. However the momentum changed and in a match full of long baseline rallies Goffin started to find the lines, hitting 39 winners to Kyrgios’s 19. 20 forehand winners, 19 backhands and 4 out of 6 net points won meant that Goffin played a near perfect game, with all his shots consistently producing stunning winners.
The fifth and final rubber between Australia and Belgium was gripping. An extraordinary point on Darcis serve was a highlight. Having been 15-40 down he leveled it to deuce and then won the longest point of the match, of 49 shots. Darcis prevailed, and once again Belgium made it to the Davis Cup final.
A highlight of the weekend was seeing new captain Hewitt in his element once again. With occasional cries of ‘too good’ and emotional fist clenches it was clear that like the players Hewitt had set his heart on his team making it to the final. And with what might seem a temperamental team on his hands, he has pulled together a group of highly skilled players with vasts amounts of potential, and as a team they have performed to their best and their passion has shined through. His influence on the future players of Australian tennis should be significant. Speaking about Kyrgios’s five set win against Darcis he explained that ‘the biggest thing was to stay in the moment. I was proud of how Nick stood up in that 4th set’. While the team didn’t make it through to the final to attempt to repeat his own past success they have made their mark in the Davis Cup.
Once again, however, big names were missing from the contest. With Djokovic out injured Serbia were missing their top player, while France did not have their showman Monfils as reserve. With their depth of players this did not effect the outcome of their tie, but it does demonstrate how demanding the tour has become. Injuries have become a huge concern within the last year, with the likes of Murray, Djokovic, Roanic and Wawrinka all withdrawing from significant tournaments. While the Davis Cup is so important for many the grueling five sets is particularly tough on the body and it is understandable that we don’t see all players continuously competing. The ongoing debate of whether these matches should be shortened to best of three is prominent, but with fantastic five sets emerging from these ties it would lose significant atmosphere and excitement. The chances the Davis Cup gives to lower seeds is also extremely significant. Other players can shine through; the final rubber between Australia and Belgium, between the 77th and 70th seed caused just as much excitement as the previous between Kyrgios and Goffin, and the quality of tennis was fantastic and competitive.
We are now left with the promising final between France and Belgium which takes place on the 24-26 November. It glimmers with chances of more quality tennis between the very best players. France have another chance of adding to their nine Davis Cup titles, the last happening in 2001, while Belgium are set with another chance at their first title, having been defeated by Britain in their last final. With Goffin having lost only 6 of his 25 Davis cup matches and Steve Darcis playing his very best tennis during these ties they have a good chance against the experienced France. Johan Van Herck, the Belgium Captain said with confidence, ‘We’ll go with ambition to France’. However with their experienced doubles and singles players France is the biggest threat of them all.
In the meantime Cilic ensured that Croatia remained in the World Group, with three convincing wins, while Hungary made it into the world group for the first time since 1996.