Qualifying for the 12 Davis Cup Finals places in Madrid next November under the new regime introduced last year, got under way and are being played over two days.
The situation with no fans helped us. It was weird, different, to play in a stadium without spectators and I think that it evened up the tie Diego Hidalgo
Unfortunately the spreading of the coronavirus disease has meant new health and safety regulations are being implemented – no handshakes, just fist pumps with the ball boys/girls instructed not to handle the players’ towels.
Two of the ties are being held in empty stadiums, in Miki where Japan are hosting Ecuador and Cagliari where South Korea are taking on the Italian home team.
In Miki, Japan, without their top two singles players Kei Nishikori – who hasn’t played Davis Cup since 2016 – and Yoshihito Nishioka, lost 3-0 to Ecuador.
Emilio Gomez defeated Go Soeda 7-5 7-6(3) while Roberto Quiroz shrugged off a gap of 186 places in the rankings to beat Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(8).
Ecuador then sealed the tie in the doubles with Gonzalo Escobar and Diego Hidalgo taking out Ben McLachlan and Uchiyama 7-6(3) 6-3. The reverse singles were cancelled.
“The situation with no fans helped us. It was weird, different, to play in a stadium without spectators and I think that it evened up the tie,” Hidalgo told daviscup.com.
“Conditions were strange,” said Italian No 1 and world 11 Fabio Fognini after cruising past 251-ranked Lee Duck-hee 6-0 6-3 in just over an hour at the Circolo Tennis venue.
“It was not difficult to focus but it was a bit strange to play in front of 100 people. But safety first and then sport,” Fognini told daviscup.com.
On the first day only teams, media and support staff were allowed into the arena where world No 79 Gianluca Mager then extended the Italian lead to 2-0 overnight after a 6-3 7-5 debut win over Nam Ji-sung.
Elsewhere, 28-time Davis Cup champions Australia were 2-0 up on Brazil in Adelaide.
Jordan Thompson saw off Thiago Monteiro 6-4 6-4 before John Millman recovered from a set and 5-3 down to defeat last week’s Santiago ATP champion, 19-year-old Thiago Seyboth Wild 4-6 7-6(0) 6-2.
But Brazil recovered by winning the doubles when Marcelo Demoliner and Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves came from a set down to snatch the rubber 5-7 7-5 7-6(6) from James Duckworth and John Peers in what was a tense meeting.
With Australia 2-1 up, they will hope to settle the issue in the reverse singles which follow.
In Zagreb, 2005 and 2018 champions Croatia were 2-0 up on India after Borna Gojo beat Prajnesh Gunneswaran 3-6 6-4 6-2 and former US Open winner Marin Cilic saw off world No 182 Ramkumar Ramanathan 7-6(8) 7-6(8).
In Bratislava, three-time champions Czech Republic were 2-0 ahead of Slovakia in their first meeting since the countries split into two independent nations in 1993.
Sweden were 1-1 with Chile in Stockholm on a contrasting day for the home side’s Ymer brothers. Mikael beat Marcelo Tomas Vera 6-2 6-3 but older brother Elias lost to Alejandro Tabilo 6-4 6-3.
In Hawaii the USA took a comfortable 2-0 lead over Uzbekistan in Honolulu. Reilly Opelka beat Denis Istomin 6-2 7-5 while Taylor Fritz dismissed Sanjar Fouziev 6-1 6-2.
Other ties were also locked at 1-1 namely Kazakhstan v Netherlands, Austria against Uruguay, Hungary at home to Belgium, Germany’s tie with Belarus and Colombia v Argentina.