Leander's Davis Cup hopes shattered

PTI  | Deccan Chronicle

Sports, Tennis

Ecuador swept past Japan in Miki in a tie played behind closed doors due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

Representational image (Twitter)

Paris: India's Leander Paes went down fighting as his dream of crowning his 30-year Davis Cup career with a place at the finals ended on saturday while Ecuador and Italy reached the November showpiece, triumphing in empty arenas locked down because of the coronavirus crisis.

Paes, 46, has played for India in every Davis Cup season bar one since his debut in 1990 but went to the qualifier tie in Zagreb against two-time champions Croatia having already announced that 2020 would be his last year on tour.

With India trailing 2-0 overnight, Paes rolled back the years, linking up with 40-year-old Rohan Bopanna to defeat Mate Pavic and Franko Skugor 6-3, 6-7 (9/11), 7-5 to keep their country's faint hopes of making the finals alive.

However, former US Open champion Marin Cilic then ruthlessly crushed that ambition with a quickfire 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Sumit Nagal.

"This was going to be my last match but the captain (Rohit Rajpal) said something to me after the match,” Paes told hinting that he could still play in the September play-offs.

The twin brothers, playing what they said would be their last Davis Cup tie, defeated Sanjar Fayziev and Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-4 in just 67 minutes to give the United States an unassailable 3-0 lead over Uzbekistan.

Reilly Opelka had beaten Istomin 6-2, 7-5 and Taylor Fritz beat Fayziev 6-1, 6-2 on Friday to put 32-time winners United States on the road to victory.

US captain Mardy Fish, aiming to rekindle US fortunes in a competition they last won 13 years ago, asked the 41-year-old Bryans to return for the first time since they played in a US quarter-final loss to Croatia in 2016.

The Bryans agreed, but said they won't be on hand when the 12 qualifiers join champions Spain, Canada, Britain, Russia, France and Serbia in November's finals in Madrid.

Although they plan to hang up their racquets for good after the US Open in September, Bob Bryan said they were pleased to have a chance to end a Davis Cup career that began in 2003 on a high note.

Ecuador swept past Japan in Miki in a tie played behind closed doors due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

The hosts were without injury-hit Kei Nishikori and Yoshihito Nishioka, who decided not to join his team to avoid a possible virus quarantine on his return to the United States.

Italian tennis federation match director Sergio Palmieri suggested that the often combustible Fognini was better suited to playing in an empty stadium.

All sports in Italy are being played behind closed doors as the country tries to stem the spread of COVID-19 which has caused 233 fatalities with more than 5,000 infected.

Colombia made the most of Bogota's high altitude to defeat 2016 champions Argentina for the first time.

Austria, playing without world number three Dominic Thiem, defeated Uruguay 3-1 when Dennis Novak beat veteran Pablo Cuevas 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.