Day 2 of the revamped Davis Cup featured action from all the six groups with just Australia and Argentina scoring 3-0 victories and Canada becoming the first nation to secure a place in the second knockout phase of the competition by defeating the US 2-1.
The atmosphere was amazing Rafa Nadal
That win was their second in Group F having already beaten Italy by the same scoreline 24-hours earlier.
But it was the appearance of the big names which attracted the most attention, namely Rafa Nadal leading his Spanish team to a 2-1 win over Russia who had taken the first point when Andrey Rublev had battled past Roberto Bautista Agut a 3-6 6-3 7-6(0).
In front of a packed out centre court crowd at the Caja Magica in Madrid – the best crowd of the day with many other ties played in front of sparse audiences – Nadal came through a second-set tie-break to defeat Karen Khachanov 6-3 7-6(7) and level the Group B match.
Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez then won the deciding doubles rubber 6-4 7-6(5) against Khachanov and Rublev leaving the Russians in hope that they might still qualify for the quarter-finals stage.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” said Nadal and when asked how he felt the new formatted competition was doing, replied: “It is difficult to answer today. Let me wait until the tournament is over to have a clear and better opinion.”
The last doubles match finished at just before 2:00 am, with Spain due to be back in action against Croatia on Wednesday afternoon.
“The only negative in my opinion is we are just starting the last match and it’s 12:45am,” Nadal said ahead of the doubles.
“That means big trouble for us the players, and also, for the people who have come to the stadium too, because tomorrow is a workday. It makes everything difficult.”
Another big attraction on the tennis scene, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, made his entry and contributed to Australia’s whitewash of Colombia and then declared that they could win the Davis Cup.
Kyrgios battled past Alejandro Gonzalez 6-4 6-4 and was followed by Alex de Minaur who defeated Daniel Galan 6-4 6-3 before John Peers and Jordan Thompson also won the doubles.
Australia could seal their place in the last eight by beating Belgium on Wednesday and Kyrgios, following a two-month break, was full of confidence.
“I haven’t played that much in the past couple of months, but I took time off to get ready for this event,” Kyrgios said afterwards.
“I think we can win it for sure. The way that Alex is playing and I know I can beat every single person in this competition.
“We have a great doubles player in John Peers and Jordan (Thompson) can play singles or doubles.
“Then we have great energy guys like John Millman so we have good depth. I think our chemistry compared to the other teams is up there.”
Canada, as mentioned, is through after Vasek Pospisil and Denis Shapovalov won singles ties against Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz respectively to secure victory over the United States conceding the doubles while France had earlier survived a scare, the tournament’s top seeds needing to win a decisive doubles rubber to beat Japan.
Even without their injured star Kei Nishikori, Japan came close to recording a major upset before experienced French duo Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert pulled the 10-time champions over the line.
Their 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 victory over Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama was enough after Gael Monfils slipped to a surprise 7-5 6-2 singles loss to world number 73 Yoshihito Nishioka following Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s opening 6-2 6-1 win over Uchiyama.
France, on their 100th appearance in the Davis Cup, are one of the favourites this week and have been sceptical of the controversial changes to the 119-year-old competition.
“I have to say, it is a strange feeling,” said Mahut. “When you play Davis Cup, usually the stadium is full.”
Elsewhere, Argentina beat Chile 3-0 and Kazakhstan prevailed 2-1 against the Netherlands.
Kazakhstan, who will face Andy Murray and Great Britain in Group E on Thursday, needed Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik to win the doubles rubber 6-4 7-6(2) against Dutch pair Robin Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer to claim their victory.
Team GB meanwhile, will open their challenge on Wednesday, versus the Dutch.