Davis Cup First Round
Struff guides Germany to Davis Cup Finals, Brazil advances
Belgium – Croatia level after Day 1
February 03, 2024
Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff celebrates on Saturday.
By ITF Staff
Jan-Lennard Struff proved too strong for Mate Valkusz on Saturday, winning 6-3 6-2 in just 45 minutes to move Germany 3-1 ahead against Hungary and seal the former champion its place in the 2024 Davis Cup Finals.
Struff, No. 24 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, had been due to face Hungarian No. 1 Fabian Marozsan in the fourth match of this Qualifier tie, but instead faced an opponent ranked outside the Top 200 after Marozsan was replaced by Valkusz.
The German powered his way to victory, silencing the home crowd inside the Tatabanya stadium as he built on the good work done by his doubles team-mates.
“I’m very happy,” said Struff. “It was a great team effort. We have a great team. I had the chance to give us the third point and I’m very happy.”
Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz defeated Marozsan and Valkusz 6-3 7-6(3) in the first match on Saturday to set up Struff to seal the deal.
In Krawietz and Puetz, Germany have one of the most formidable doubles pairings in the competition. Saturday’s victory was the duo’s 10th together and they have only ever lost one of the 11 matches they have contested as a team.
Neither of their Hungarian opponents looked at their best in the opening set. As the match progressed, the home side looked more cohesive, but the Germans played a much better tiebreak to close out the match in one hour and 24 minutes.
“It’s always very, very special playing for Germany,” said Puetz after winning his doubles match. “We’ve got a very good team. Besides the fact that we’re really good tennis players, we’ve got a really good team feeling. We enjoy the weeks a lot and that makes it always a bit more special to win.”
Brazil overcomes Sweden
Brazil sealed a historic triumph against Sweden in Helsingborg as their top-ranked player Thiago Monteiro led his team to victory with a second thrilling singles win of the tie.
With the score tied at 1-1 after a high-quality first day of action at the Helsingborg Arena, the doubles encounter always had the potential to be crucial to the final outcome, with the 6-2, 7-5 win for Felipe Meligeni Alves and Rafael Matos over Filip Bergevi and Andre Goransson coming in one hour and 28 minutes.
It seemed as if the Brazilian team would run away with the match as they claimed the first set 6-2, converting two of the 11 break points they created and not facing a single break point on their own serve.
The second set was a tighter affair, with the Brazilian duo faltering for the first time as they served for the match at 5-4 and the home fans had fresh hope of a comeback from Bergevi and Goransson.
Yet the in-form duo of Alves and Matos found another crucial break to take the tie and give Brazil’s top-ranked singles player Monteiro a chance to clinch the tie heading into his match against Elias Ymer.
“Happy to have reached this point for Brazil,” said Alves. “It was a very difficult match, the first time we played a point like that in a 1-1.
His partner Rafael Matos was equally elated as he added: “The energy was fundamental, both ours and the team’s support off the court.”
The battle of the two highest-ranked singles players competing in this tie was always going to be a tense battle and as Sweden No. 1 Ymer took the opening set 6-4 against Monteiro, it seemed as if the tie was heading towards a decisive fifth match.
Yet Brazil’s talisman fought his way back into contention in a tense second set, with the crucial break of serve for Monteiro coming at 4-4.
The head-to-head between these two players was tied at 1-1 going into this match and it was Monteiro who tipped the balance in his favour and pushed Brazil towards the winning line in the third set.
He broke serve twice in the third set and served it out for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win that secured Brazil’s place in the Davis Cup Finals Group Stage in September.
“I’m just happy to help the team,” said Monteiro. “Everyone had put a lot of effort in to make this work. It is the job of the whole team. They have all put so much energy into this and I am proud to be part of this team.
“It is a huge confidence for us to have Rafa and Felipe play the doubles for us in this team and win and I just wanted to go out there and do the job.
The victory in Sweden made it three Davis Cup wins in succession for Brazil, after they came through World Group I matches against China and Denmark in 2023.
Belgium & Croatia level after Day 1
All is very much to play for in Varazdin after an inspired Duje Ajdukovic chalked up his maiden Davis Cup singles match-win to level matters between Croatia and Belgium in their crunch Qualifier tie.
It was a powerful display by Split-born Ajdukovic, who made his Davis Cup debut during last year’s Finals Group Stage, as he dispatched Joris de Loore 6-1 6-4. De Loore did, however, make a spirited comeback in the second set.
This tie could well go the distance but, in the first instance, attention will turn to doubles tomorrow before two further singles matches will determine the outcome of this tie one way or the other.
At the moment, proceedings are locked at 1-1. Zizou Bergs earlier fired Belgium into the lead by defeating former world No. 3 Marin Cilic during the opening singles showdown.
Bergs prevailed 6-4 4-6 6-4 to ensure Belgium made the perfect start in their quest to reach the 2024 Finals – and make up for the disappointment of losing at this stage of the competition last year.
Cilic was tasting Davis Cup action for the first time in 14 months due to injury, having not featured since the 2022 Davis Cup Final 8 when Croatia surged to the semi-finals before succumbing to Australia in a pulsating last-four showdown in Malaga.
The 35-year-old was a member of the Croatian teams that won the Davis Cup title in 2018 and finished as runners-up in 2021, but he was unable to rekindle such glories here as Bergs proved too strong an opponent.