Bratislava, Slovakia – The Czech Republic and Hungary will compete in the Davis Cup Finals for the first time under the new format after respectively beating Slovakia and Belgium over the weekend.
Friendly rivalry goes the Czechs’ way
On Czech legend Ivan Lendl’s 60th birthday, Jiri Vesely clinched the Czech Republic’s tie-winning point against Slovakia in Bratislava in what was the first Davis Cup encounter between the two rivals since the “Velvet divorce”, 27 years ago.
“It’s been a night to remember that’s for sure,” said Vesely, after Saturday’s game. “For five, six years, I’ve been struggling in the Davis Cup and not playing my best tennis at all. It was a mental problem, for sure, I was always so nervous, so this has been a huge weekend for me”.
If Vesely and Lukas Rosol had seemingly put the qualifier beyond the hosts with their straight set singles wins on Friday, Slovak doubles pairing of Filip Polasek and Igor Zelenay outplayed the Czech Republic’s Jonas Forejtek and Zdenek Kolar on Saturday, boosting Slovakia’s chances of completing the most unlikely comeback.
This was not to be and Vesely’s secured the Czech Republic’s place in November’s Madrid Finals, maintaining the Czechs’ sporting domination over their neighbours, so familiar in football, ice hockey and the Fed Cup over the years.
Hungary stuns Belgium
Earlier on Saturday in Debrecen, Hungary stunned heavy-favourites Belgium in a tight tie that came down to the deciding set of the deciding match.
The hosts trailed 2-1 after Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen beat Marton Fucsovics and Attila Balazs in Saturday’s doubles match when the Hungarian pair returned to court for the reverse singles. Balazs then thrashed Kimmer Coppejans before Fucsovics finished the job with a stunning comeback victory over Ruben Bemelmans, sealing Hungary’s first ticket to the Davis Cup Finals.
“I’m the happiest person in the world right now,” Fucsovics said afterwards. “This is a huge achievement for my career and for my country to get to Madrid. I can’t wait.”
The draw for the 2020 Finals will take place at the ITF headquarters in London on March 12. The Finals will be held in Madrid from 23 until 29 November. Spain are the defending champions.
Photo credit: Martin Sidorjak