Sweden, France on song; Australia suffer on Davis Cup opening night

Published November 27, 2021
TURIN: Australia’s Alex De Minaur positions himself to play a shot as partner John Peers looks on during their Davis Cup doubles match against the Croatian pair of Nicola Mektic and Mate Pavic at the Pala Alpitour.—AP
TURIN: Australia’s Alex De Minaur positions himself to play a shot as partner John Peers looks on during their Davis Cup doubles match against the Croatian pair of Nicola Mektic and Mate Pavic at the Pala Alpitour.—AP

PARIS: Brothers Elias and Mikael Ymer helped Sweden sweep aside Canada, France fought back to down the Czech Republic and Croatia crushed Australia as the revamped Davis Cup opened on Thursday.

Holders Spain suffered a blow to their title defence before hitting a ball in anger with Carlos Alcaraz in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.

The rest of the Spanish team, who are missing Rafael Nadal, were given the all-clear after PCR tests to play Ecuador in Madrid on Friday.

Sweden were in imperious form in the Spanish capital against the Canadian 2019 finalists who went into battle without their top two players Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. Elias Ymer, 25, got the show on the road, beating Steven Diez 6-4, 6-2 before his two-year younger sibling Mikael sped past Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 6-4.

Robert Lindstedt and Andre Goransson then combined for a 7-6, 6-4 doubles win over Pospisil and Brayden Schnur to leave the Swedes needing a win over Kazakhstan on Saturday to progress to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2011.

In Innsbruck, where the surge in coronavirus cases and the subsequent lockdown in Austria meant that matches ware being played once again in an empty arena, France got off to a rocky start when 35-year-old veteran Richard Gasquet lost 7-6, 6-2 to Tomas Machac.

France then came back as Adrian Mannarino beat Jiri Vesely 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 6-2.

And Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert completed the comeback with a three-set defeat of Jiri Lehecka and Machac.

Great Britain complete Group C.

Australia, 28-time winners of the Davis Cup, have work to do after losing 3-0 to Croatia in Turin.

Borna Gojo beat Alexei Popyrin 7-6, 7-5 before Marin Cilic despatched Alex de Minaur 6-1, 5-7, 6-4. Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic then raced to a 6-3, 6-1 win over de Minaur and John Peers.

Hungary await their debut in this group D.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2021

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