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Doubles victory puts Colombia in control of Davis Cup playoff

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah gave Colombia a 2-1 lead with a straight-sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita in doubles at their Davis Cup World Group Playoff at Ariake Colosseum on Saturday afternoon.

Playing indoors on the hardcourt, the Colombians took charge early and were never threatened.

Cabal and Farah broke Ito and Sugita in the second game of the first set as they raced out to a 3-0 lead. The Japanese pair finally held in the fourth game, but that was all they could muster as Colombia took the set in just 23 minutes.

Ito and Sugita were hurt by only being able to get in 50 percent of their first serves in the set.

The second set provided more of the same. The Colombians broke in the first and third games and were up 4-0 before Japan held serve to make it 4-1.

Cabal and Farah, who advanced to the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open, dominated the match by continually coming to the net and launching vollies that Ito and Sugita could not handle. The Japanese tried to play from the baseline, but had little success.

So one-sided was the match that Japan did not have a single break point in the entire contest, which took just 1 hour, 27 minutes.

Japan had nearly twice as many unforced errors (51-26) as their opponents in the loss.

“We almost didn’t have any mistakes today,” said Farah. “We had the answer for everything they threw at us.”

Colombia captain Mauricio Hadad considered victory in the doubles crucial for his team.

“It was important for us to win the doubles,” he stated. “We’re in a good position now being up 2-1. We hope we can win one of the singles on Sunday.”

Despite the resounding defeat, Japan captain Minoru Ueda remains confident heading into the final day of the tie.

“We knew they had a good doubles team, so it would be tough. These guys compete together in the Grand Slams,” said Ueda. “The important thing is to get the three points. We feel good about the singles with Kei and Go.”

Kei Nishikori defeated Alejandro Falla in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6 4 in the opening singles match on Friday, before Santiago Giraldo outlasted Go Soeda in five sets 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 in the second contest to level the tie.

Japan originally had Nishikori and Soeda penciled in for the doubles, but substituted Ito and Sugita on Saturday morning. Soeda’s loss to Giraldo came in a 3-hour, 24-minute battle, and likely factored into the decision to make the switch.

Hadad said he figured a change by Japan was likely ahead of the match.

“We were expecting a change, but we didn’t know what it was going to be,” he commented. “We were surprised that Kei did not play doubles today.”

Nishikori, ranked 12th in the world, will face No. 85 Giraldo in Sunday’s first reverse singles match as Japan tries to stay alive. Soeda is slated to take on Alejandro Falla in the second.

Japan was knocked out of World Group last September after a 3-2 loss to Israel at Ariake. Japan had returned to the top level for the first time in 27 years, but was unable to stay there. It defeated Korea 3-2 in April to advance to the playoff.

Czechs close in on final

AP
LONDON

The Czech Republic closed in on its third Davis Cup final in five years by taking a 2-0 lead against Argentina on Friday while Milos Raonic saved a match point before winning a tense five-setter to put Canada level at 1-1 against Serbia in the other semifinal.

Stepanek swept aside Juan Monaco 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2 before the fifth-ranked Berdych stretched the margin for the defending champion Czechs with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over hard-hitting Leonardo Mayer. Stepanek and Berdych can now secure a return to the final in Saturday’s doubles, where they have a 12-1 record in Davis Cup play.

“We are 2-0 up, that’s what we wanted. Now, the most important thing is to get ready for the doubles,” Berdych said.