Tennis

‘Most painful loss I’ve had’: Australia swept in opening Davis Cup tie

Australia have had a nightmare start to their Davis Cup campaign, with former US Open champion Marin Cilic and the unheralded Borna Gojo leading Croatia to a 3-0 win in Turin.

Gojo fired eight aces to secure a 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 victory over Alexei Popyrin, who is 215 rungs above the Croatian in the ATP rankings. Gojo, ranked 276th, saved all five break points he faced.

Cilic edged past world No.61 Alex de Minaur 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in the second rubber in group D, and the doubles combination of de Minaur and John Peer then lost to Croatian duo Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (the world’s No.1-ranked doubles team) 6-3, 6-1.

“I would say this is probably the most painful loss I have had,” Popyrin said after his defeat. “I had chances.

“He’s a good player, and his ranking doesn’t really justify his level. I think he plays above his ranking.”

Croatia won the Davis Cup in 2018.

Australia’s Alexei Popyrin at full stretch in his Davis Cup clash against Croatia’s Borna Gojo.Credit:AP

Australia, who have won the Davis Cup 28 times, next face Hungary in their final round-robin tie, early Sunday (AEDT).

Each match-up on indoor hard courts is a best-of-three series featuring two singles and one doubles match. The six group winners plus the two second-place teams with the best records based on sets and games will advance to the quarter-finals.

Sweden also swept their opponent Canada 3-0 as the second edition of the revamped Davis Cup finals got underway with simultaneous matches in three different countries on Thursday.

Sweden won the opening singles against 2019 runner-up Canada when Elias Ymer defeated Steven Diaz 6-4, 6-2 in Madrid in group B match between players ranked lower than 170. Ymer rallied after being down 4-1 in the first set.

Sweden are trying to reach the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2011. Canada lost the final to host Spain in 2019.

The Czech Republic went 1-0 up against France when 21-year-old Thomas Machac defeated veteran Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 in group C in Innsbruck. The 35-year-old Gasquet conceded 11 aces against the 143rd-ranked Machac in an empty court because of coronavirus restrictions in Austria.

But France’s Adrian Mannarino hit back, defeating Czech Jiri Vesely 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 6-2 ahead of the deciding doubles match.

The 18-team competition was not played last year because of the pandemic. There won’t be any fans allowed in Innsbruck, and capacity is at 60 per cent in Turin and 75 per cent in Madrid, where a good crowd was on hand for the opening match between Sweden and Canada.

The event was held entirely in Madrid over seven days in 2019, being extended to 11 days this time after criticism from players and fans over late-night matches in mostly empty arenas and not enough rest between matches.

AP, Reuters

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