Slovakia seals victory against Serbia, qualifies for Davis Cup Finals for first time
France lead Chinese Taipei 2-0 on Day 1
February 03, 2024
Lukas Klein and Igor Zelenay seal victory for Slovkia.
By ITF Staff
Slovakia qualified for the Davis Cup Finals for the first time on Saturday when Lukas Klein and Igor Zelenay clinched the decisive point in its qualifying tie against Serbia.
With Slovakia entering Day 2 of the tie in Serbia holding a 2-0 lead, Klein and Zelenay finished the job, moving past Nikola Cacic and Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6(4), 6-3 to give Slovakia an unassailable 3-0 lead against last year’s semi-finalists.
In front of a lively crowd, Klein and Zelenay rallied from a break down in the first set, before they closed the net well throughout the second set to triumph after one hour and 38 minutes. They fired 31 winners and won 76 per cent (28/37) of their first-serve points.
Before this year, Slovakia had suffered four consecutive losses at the Qualifiers stage.
On Friday, Alex Molcan rallied past Dusan Lajovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 to give Slovakia a commanding 2-0 lead.
The 26-year-old Molcan recovered from a slow start by finding more rhythm on his serve, dropping just one point behind his first delivery in the deciding set, sealing the match after one hour, 55 minutes.
”I’m happy that we were able to win two matches today. We knew it was going to be tough against Serbians in their home nation,” Molcan said. “I was a little bit nervous in the first set. I was [hitting] very short. I just was trying to hit the ball big and I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.
“In the second set, I started to hit the ball deep in the court and that helped me a lot. Then, I got the momentum until the end of the match, so I’m really happy that I could win. I’m also happy that Lukas won. I’m proud of our team today and we will try to make one more point tomorrow.”
Molcan’s countryman Klein ensured a fast start for his home country earlier on Friday, when he moved past Serbian Kecmanovic 7-6(2), 6-2.
Competing on indoor clay, Klein overpowered Kecmanovic from the baseline and was strong on return, breaking the World No. 41’s serve four times en route to a 90-minute triumph. Klein, who fell in a fifth-set tie-break to Alexander Zverev in the second round at last month’s Australian Open, earned his first Davis Cup rubber victory.
France in control against Chinese Taipei
New France captain Paul-Henri Mathieu’s pick of Luca van Assche and Adrian Mannarino in singles has paid dividends in their clash with Chinese Taipei.
First up, 19-year-old Van Assche got France on the board with a 6-4 6-4 win over Hsu Yu Hsiou, before Mannarino, 16 years his senior, made it 2-0 with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Wu Tung-Lin.
On the hunt for an 11th Davis Cup title, France have finished third in the Group Stage in the previous two Davis Cup Finals. One more point on Day 2 will see them through to try for another shot at getting to the Final 8.
In the second singles, the difference in ranking ultimately made itself apparent. The Frenchman is at a career-high of 17, while Wu, currently ranked 238, has never made it inside the top 150.
However, a big-hitting and determined Wu came out fighting and grasped the momentum in the second set, going 3-0 up before being reeled back to 4-4 by Mannarino. The 35-year-old then broke for 6-5 before serving out the match with his 10th ace.
“I knew he was going to try pretty hard,” Mannarino said. “I heard from different people that his groundstrokes were pretty heavy so I was expecting him to be really aggressive. I was a bit surprised in the beginning, he started really well, he started full power all the time so it took me a little bit of time to get used to it. When I got into my rhythm I was feeling pretty consistent on the court.
“Second set was a little bit tougher than I expected, but I felt like I was able to finish strong, so that’s pretty good for us.”
At the start of the day, it was a tough Davis Cup debut for Van Aasche, who is fresh from reaching the third round at the Australian Open; the 19-year-old took a while to get into his stride in front of a packed crowd at the Taipei Tennis Centre.
Van Assche broke Hsu in the first game, but three double faults from the Frenchman in the second handed the break back. In his second service game the nerves seemed to settle, and from there on he managed to stay one step ahead of his opponent, rounding out the match in one hour 35 minutes.
“I’m very happy with the win today,” Van Assche said. “It was an amazing feeling to play my first match with the French team. I’m just very happy to have won the first point for France.”
Hsu will take to the court again on Day 2, pairing with Jason Jung to face experienced doubles duo Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.