On the second days of the ATP Cup, Italy becomes the first nation to qualify for the knock-out stage of the team event being played out in Melbourne and which is playing a part in providing much needed competitive play as a warm-up for next week’s Australian Open.
It's a great team, great guys. We are enjoying on court, but off court as well," he added. "I think when you're playing for your country, for your team, it's something special. Matteo Berrettini
Playing in the afternoon session on the John Cain Arena court, the Italians sealed their place in the semi-finals when the team defeated France while on the Rod Laver Arena, Germany kept their hopes of making the last four alive after battling past and extinguishing any hopes Canada might still have had.
The event, which with 12 nations competing is a slimmed down version of last year’s inaugural 24-nation competition thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, is proving just as successful while providing some excellent matches.
Italy, having surprisingly defeated Dominic Thiem’s Austria 2-1 on Tuesday by claiming the deciding doubles, posted a similar score-line against the French but this time, claimed both the singles to ensure they topped Group C.
Fabio Fognini downed Benoit Paire 6-1 7-6(2) in the opening rubber after just 78-minutes while Matteo Berrettini, world ranked 10, required just 93-mintes to crush French hopes by defeating the player ranked one place below him, Gael Monfils 6-4 6-2.
The French, playing their first tie at this year’s event, picked up a consolation point when Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin took the doubles.
“We are playing good, we’ve got great energy, we are really happy to be in the semi-finals,” Berrettini, who recovered from being down an early break in the opening set, said after his win. “Last year, I didn’t play and unfortunately the guys couldn’t make it, so we’re really pumped.
“I was ready for any score. I kept going. I thought about my weapons and that’s how I won the match.
“It’s a great team, great guys. We are enjoying on court, but off court as well,” he added. “I think when you’re playing for your country, for your team, it’s something special.”
In contrast, Germany had to battle to secure their victory over Canada with the singles rubbers featuring four decisive tie breaks in the five sets played.
Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff dominated the first two and finished off Milos Raonic after two hours, with a crushing ace – his ninth as against Raonic’s 15 – for a 7-6(4) 7-6(2) victory to give Germany the start they wanted.
Canada, having lost 2-1 to Serbia on Tuesday, needed to win the tie if the team were to have any chance and Denis Shapovalov briefly kept that hope alive with a very positive start against Alexander Zverev by claiming the first set – on a tie-break.
The young Canadian though, needed treatment on his shoulder which may well have aided Zverev, playing his first match of the year, to level at a set-all.
The two combatants then became embroiled in a huge battle to claim the third set which for much of the time could go either way. Zverev seemed to have the upper hand having gained seven break points but failed to convert forcing a final set tie-break.
There Shapovalov had his chances but an unforced error and a double fault at crucial moments opened the door for Zverev who stormed through after two-hours and 56-minutes with his 14th and 15th aces for a 6-7(5) 6-3 7-6(4) victory.
Zverev, with his brother Mischa as Germany’s team captain, admits he is in a good place. “All the players enjoy having him as captain, he’s been fantastic in training as well. It’s just great to have him here,” the German No1 and world No.7 said.
The German’s weren’t able to make a clean sweep of it with the doubles point going to the Canadians.
In the evening session Russia could join Italy in the semi-finals if they can beat Japan in their Group D clash while Greece play their first Group B tie against an Australian team who lost 3-0 to Spain on Tuesday.