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Davis Cup: Slovakia shock Serbia to reach group stage

Davis Cup: Slovakia shock Serbia to reach group stage

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Lukas Klein and Igor Zelenay fired 31 winners in their decisive Davis Cup doubles win for Slovakia against Serbia

Slovakia provided the biggest shock of the Davis Cup qualifiers as they knocked out 2023 semi-finalists Serbia.

France, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, USA, Finland, Argentina, Chile and Brazil also booked places in the competition’s group stage.

They join last year’s winners Italy, 2023 runners-up Australia and wildcards Great Britain and Spain.

The 16 qualified nations will contest the group stage from 10-15 September.

The competition will conclude in November with the ‘Final 8’ – quarter-finals, semi-finals and final – in Malaga.

Slovakia dumped out a Serbia side missing 24-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, winning all four matches contested on the indoor clay in Kraljevo to reach the group stage of the new format for the first time.

They had lost their previous four qualifiers, but Lukas Klein and Igor Zelenay gave them an unassailable lead with victory in the doubles as Slovakia went on to score a famous 4-0 win against the 2010 winners.

Brazil also reached the group stages for the first time with a 3-1 victory over Sweden, their third win of this year’s tournament after beating China and Denmark in World Group I to reach the qualifiers.

The United States won through with a 4-0 victory over Ukraine in a tie that was played on neutral ground in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram claimed the decisive point in their doubles match against Illya Beloborodko and Oleksii Krutykh as 32-time winners USA bid for a first Davis Cup title since 2007.

Four ties went the distance as Germany beat Hungary 3-2 and the Netherlands overcame Switzerland by the same score. Also winning 3-2 were Argentina and Chile, who beat Kazakhstan and Peru respectively.

The Dutch side won the final two singles contests to come from 2-1 down against Switzerland. Eight of the 11 sets across the match went to tie-breaks, with Botic van de Zandschulp clinching the decisive rubber 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 against Marc-Andrea Huesler in front of a partisan home crowd.

World number 24 Jan-Lennard Struff sealed Germany’s victory in the final singles match in Hungary, winning 6-3 6-2 against Mate Valkusz, who is ranked outside the world’s top 200.

Argentina eventually won 3-2 against Kazakhstan. Straight-set victories for Timofel Skatov over Tomas Martin Etcheverry and Francisco Cerundolo took the clash to a decider, where a 6-4 3-6 7-6 (8-6) win for Sebastian Baez against Dmitry Popko booked Argentina’s spot in the group stage.

In Santiago, Chile fought back from 2-1 down against Peru to win their qualifier. Singles wins for Nicolas Jarry and Alejandro Tabilo saw them seal the final place in September’s group stage.

Earlier, there were 4-0 wins for France in Chinese Taipei and Czech Republic at home to Israel, while Canada overcame South Korea 3-1 in Montreal.

Finland made the group stages for the second year running with a 3-1 victory at home to Portugal.

Belgium’s Zizou Bergs followed up his shock opening victory over Croatia’s former world number three Marin Cilic to seal an overall 3-1 victory with a decisive second singles success in Varazdin, beating home hope Duje Ajdukovic 6-1 7-5.