SYDNEY: Roberto Bautista Agut swept past Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic to steer Spain into the ATP Cup semi-finals yesterday, where they will meet Poland after world number nine Hubert Hurkacz overwhelmed Argentina’s in-form Diego Schwartzman. The winner between Daniil Medvedev’s defending champions Russia or the Matteo Berrettini-led Italy, last year’s finalists, will also book a last-four berth when they meet in Sydney today.
The outcome of Group C is more complicated with all four teams – Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States – still in contention. They also play today. After Chile beat Norway earlier in the day, Spain only needed one win in their final Group A tie against 2020 champions Serbia to progress, and that came from the consistent Pablo Carreno Busta. The world number 20 toppled Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 6-4 for his third consecutive win of the season before Bautista Agut, ranked one place above his teammate, rubbed salt in Serbia’s wounds by cruising past Lajovic 6-1, 6-4.
“I’m very happy to have won the match in two sets, the humidity was tough, but we need these matches coming from Europe and the winter,” said Bautista Agut, who played consistently from the baseline. “I haven’t played three matches in a row for three or four months and it’s really good to start the season with rhythm, with minutes on the court and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Despite missing Rafael Nadal, who is playing an ATP tournament in Melbourne, Spain have dropped just one set at the 16-team event as Carreno Busta and Bautista Agut warm up for the Australian Open which starts on January 17. Hurkacz has also been in fine touch, battling past 13th-ranked Schwartzman 6-1, 6-4 in 81 minutes. Both Poland and Argentina went into the tie unbeaten in Group D, winning previous clashes with Greece and Georgia, to make their showdown a winner-takes-all battle.
Poland’s world number 117 Kamil Majchrzak set up his team for victory with a gutsy 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) win against Federico Delbonis, who is ranked 73 places higher, leaving 2021 Miami Open champion Hurkacz to seal the tie. “So happy for Team Poland, we are in the semis and super proud of that achievement,” said Hurkacz, who sent down 12 aces and won 85 percent of his first-serve points. “We are a great team, have great team spirit and support each other and I think the atmosphere that we bring helps us play better.”
It was another solid win for Hurkacz after a career-best 2021 garnered three ATP Tour titles. Schwartzman was coming off an upset win over world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday. Majchrzak has been a more-than-competent second singles player for Poland, enjoying one of the best weeks of his career with three wins in a row. “My ranking maybe is out of the top 100, but I feel like I belong in the top 100 and more, so I’m going for it now,” he said.
Greece’s Tsitsipas revealed he was still in pain after November elbow surgery when he was beaten by Schwartzman, casting doubt over whether he would play his singles rubber. But he took to the court against Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, only for his opponent to retire while losing 4-1 in the opening set, complaining of breathing difficulties. Greece and Georgia both lost their opening two ATP Cup ties and had no chance of making the semi-finals.- AFP