Perth | Tsitsipas settles nerves; Vekic and Coric establish a commanding lead

Stefanos Tsitsipas had to come to Team Greece’s rescue following the defeat of Despina Papamichail to Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck which rather dented their hopes of qualifying for the Perth City Finals.

"I had a very difficult opponent. There was a lot more pressure, and to be the first one opening the tie is quite tricky. But I'm pleased with my level of tennis — it was a good match overall Donna Vekic

He rose to the occasion to inflict a 6-3 6-2 defeat on David Goffin in their Group A clash for his second win of the new season having beaten Grigor Dimitrov in their earlier tie against Bulgaria.

In what was a closely fought opening set, the Greek world No.4 broke in the eighth game thanks his greater power which extracted a backhand error from Goffin on break point.

Tsitsipas’ serving proved crucial in the second set and he frequently painted the lines with his first serves, saving three break points to hold for 2-2. Having staved off a possible Goffin recovery, Tsitsipas took command in the next to break the Belgian and set himself up for a much-anticipated victory in the 78-minute encounter with another break.

That left the tie level at 1-1 with the Greeks in the ascendancy for tomorrow’s remaining rubbers having recovered from their earlier loss when Papamichail, despite some very spirited play and loud support from the Greek section within the RAC Arena, went down to the experienced Belgian, Van Uytvanck after two hours and 30-minutes.

It was a resilient performance from the young Greek who refused to roll over but it was Van Uytvanck who was able to raise her game in the third and power herself to a 4-1 lead.

Papamichail fought back with some terrific shot making to cut Van Uytvanck’s lead to 4-3 but the Belgian responded with a series of classy winners of her own, hammering an off forehand to break again for 5-3 and then converting her second match point with a solid one-two punch.

Team Greece now requires just one win from the three remaining matches in the tie. They will hope the women’s world No. 6 Maria Sakkari can get the job done early in the first match scheduled for Tuesday when she takes on Team Belgium’s Elise Mertens currently ranked 29.

Donna Vekic is extended during her match

Paul Kane/Getty Images

In the other tie being played in the capital of Western Australia, Croatia have taken a commanding lead over France with Donna Vekic and Borna Coric each scoring straight-sets win in their final and crucial Group F tie to decide which nation progresses to the Perth City Final.

Vekic’s 6-4 6-3 scoreline belied the tightness of the contest which was a classic stylistic contrast between power and defence with the pair repeatedly embroiled in multi-deuce tussles. By the end Vekic had struck 34 winners compared to Cornet’s 13, but she also committed 20 unforced errors.

“I had a very difficult opponent,” said Vekic. “There was a lot more pressure, and to be the first one opening the tie is quite tricky. But I’m pleased with my level of tennis — it was a good match overall. I’m not very good at starting the year well, so this is really important for me to get some confidence heading into the Australian Open.”

There were no such problems for Coric when he followed Vekic on to RAC Arena to take on Rinderknech. The Croatian stayed cool under pressure to dominate both tie-breaks in his 7-6(1) 7-6(2) victory and place his team in a commanding position in the tie heading into Tuesday’s action.

“It feels great, obviously,” said Coric after the one-hour and 53-minute match. “I was very happy with my performance. I thought I was serving very well and in the first set, when I lost the break, I stayed calm so that was very important for me. I’m just very happy with the win and to get the point for my team.”

With the winner of this tie progressing to the City Final, Petra Martic and Borna Gojo will both have the opportunity to secure Team Croatia’s passage to the next round in their singles matches against Caroline Garcia and Adrian Mannarino, respectively. Should neither secure victory, however, the decisive tie will come down to the mixed doubles and Coric is ready to take to court once more for his team, should the call come.



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