Belgium beat Bulgaria 2-1 in Sydney, the specific score-line Team GB were hoping for as it immediately placed them into the quarter finals of the ATP Cup where they will face home favourites Australia, 3-0 winners over Greece in Brisbane.
Obviously I have a lot of history with Lleyton and everyone knows their team well. It would be a big challenge Tim Henman
Tim Henman’s team had beaten Moldova 3-0 in the morning’s programme but still required that particular Belgium score-line to come out of the night session to ensure their advancement into the last eight. Any other result would have made their progress a very tenuous one.
Before the Belgium-Bulgaria tie, Henman had praised his team and admitted he would “love” to face Lleyton Hewitt’s Australia.
“I feel like there has been a great spirit in our team,” he said. “I have certainly kept an eye on the other cities and what’s been going on there. It would be a lot of fun if that were the case.
“Obviously I have a lot of history with Lleyton and everyone knows their team well. It would be a big challenge.
“We would love that opportunity, because it would mean we have come through our group.”
That opportunity has been provided and he can thank the Belgium doubles pairing for their place as they won what proved to be the decisive rubber.
With only the top team from each group at the 24-nation championship qualifying for the knockout phase, the fate of Group C came down to who won a clash pitting Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and Dimitar Kuzmanov against Belgium’s Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.
And it was Gille and Vliegen who outlasted their opponents 3-6 6-4 10-7 to shatter Bulgaria who had been undefeated in their previous two ties.
Despite winning, Belgium could not qualify for the last eight and Bulgaria needed to win but their failure to do so allowed Britain to top the group!
“Tough finding words right now. A very special feeling after pulling out the win today,” said Vliegen.
Bulgaria did have the opportunity to seal their berth after Kuzmanov thrashed Steve Darcis 6-0 6-3 in the opening singles and Dimitrov took the first set in his showdown with David Goffin before slumping to a 4-6 6-2 6-2 defeat. That loss forced the tie into that crucial deciding doubles.
Britain’s quarter final opponents Australia, who had qualified before the final round of group matches, came through a sticky tie against Greece in Brisbane.
Nick Kyrgios outlasted world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(7) 6-7(3) 7-6(5) after two hours and 32-minutes to put the Aussies into un unassailable 2-0 lead after John Millman had recovered from a set down to win the opening rubber 4-6 6-1 7-6(1) against Markos Kalovelonis.
Commenting after his match, Kyrgios, who had missed the previous tie with a bad back, exclaimed: “Exhausting! It was lot of fun. Knew it was going to be a tough match. He’s an amazing player and he’s so young. He’s going to do some special things in the sport.”
While Kyrgios, who has been placed on probation by the ATP over his behaviour last year, kept his cool throughout the rubber, Tsitsipas did and was docked a point for hitting a ball at the Greek Team Zone.
Earlier he had lost the first set which sparked off a temper tantrum resulting in the 21-year-old smashing his racket in frustration. Some fragments struck the Greek coach (who is also his father) and earned him a very vocal rebuke from his mother who was present in the players’ zone.
Finally in Perth, Italy inflicted a third defeat on the USA with Stefano Travaglia and Fabio Fognini defeating Taylor Fritz 7-6(3) 7-6(1) and John Isner 6-4 7-6(5) respectively.
The final humiliation was provided by Simone Bolelli and Fognini who claimed the third point with a 6-4 6-7(5) 10-3 win over Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek .