After six days of round robin play at the inaugural ATP Cup team event across Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, eight teams are left standing from the 24 that started, namely Australia, Serbia, Russia and Britain who booked their spots for the latter stages yesterday, and Spain and Argentina today, all as group winners.
tTey’re used to the Sydney conditions as well playing there all week. It’s going to be a tough one Lleyton Hewitt
Joining them as the best runner-up to to fill the eight quarter-final spots are Belgium and Canada.
All the quarter-finals will be played in Sydney with Australia facing Britain in the first of them in the day session and will be followed by Russia versus Argentina in the night session.
While Australia, who played their group matches in Brisbane, will no doubt be favourites in the opening tie against Britain, captain Lleyton Hewitt points out his opponents have some advantages.
“They have got a pretty even team across the board — singles and doubles — and they’re used to the Sydney conditions as well playing there all week. It’s going to be a tough one.”
Despite being the underdogs, British captain Tim Henman is relishing the opportunity of rekindling his former on court rivalry with Hewitt.
The final two quarter-finals featuring Serbia against Canada open Friday’s play while Spain will close the day’s programme that evening against Belgium.
“I always enjoy sharing important moments with friends, and we had a lot of success during our entire careers playing for our country in Davis Cup,” Rafa Nadal said in Perth ahead of the quarter-final ties. “So for us it’s a good start, to be able to be qualified for Sydney already. The conditions will be different, and a three-hour time (difference). There’s a lot of things we need to adjust to, and the period of time to make it happen is very short.”
In the final action of Wednesday’s group play, Poland pulled off a 2-1 win over Austria which included a brilliant win by Hubert Hurkacz over Dominic Thiem, the Austrian world number four. That Austrian loss put paid to any chances of them winning the group leaving Argentina and Croatia to battle it out for that last eight slot, and it was the former who went forward following a convincing 3-0 win for their second group victory.
Left-hander Guido Pella got Argentina off to a strong start, defeating former world number three Marin Cilic 7-6(1) 6-3, before a focused Schwartzman crushed Borna Coric 6-2 6-2.
“I think everyone who is in the quarters is ready for the quarters. We are ready to play against (Karen) Khachanov or (Daniil) Medvedev, the singles and then we see the doubles,” said Schwartzman on learning who their final eight opponents were.
“I need to rest because Medvedev is putting every ball on court, so I need to be ready for the match.”
Croatia could have gone through as well had they been able to win the doubles but Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic blew their chance, letting Canada pick up the second best runner-up slot behind Belgium.
“The most important thing is that I had good sets, good fight, and I’m looking forward to playing next matches in Sydney” Khachanov said on Russia making the last eight. “I think it was important for the guys to win as many matches as they can, so they are coming [to Sydney] with full confidence after playing a lot of matches,” said the Russian captain Marat Safin.
“It’s beginning of the year, [but] I think the guys are ready. They are pumped enough to do well in the final stage. I’m happy for them. I’m happy for myself. I think we are doing better each day”.
And there is plenty at stake for them all with a £12 million prize money fund and 750 singles and 250 doubles ranking points to be shared.