Spain completed a 3-0 win over Serbia to go top of Group B at the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals.
Roberto Bautista Agut sealed the winning point with a tense 7-6(5), 7-6(5) victory over Miomir Kecmanovic in front of a packed crowd at the Pabellon Fuente de San Luis in Valencia.
It was hardly surprising that a match between two players who are capable of incredible defence wasn’t a one-sided affair, but the clash between Bautista and Kecmanovic was decided on the finest of margins.
The first set was on a knife edge throughout all one hour and nine minutes, and it was only when the Spaniard played a slightly better tiebreak that he was able to edge in front.
Bautista carried that momentum into the start of the second set, stealing an early break to move 1-0 ahead. Kecmanovic, though, showed why he has established himself as a top-40 player with some sensational tennis.
The pair exchanged breaks in games six and seven of the second set, thus maintaining the Spaniard’s advantage.
The best experiences of my life playing tennis have been in this competition
Kecmanovic wasn’t going down without a fight. Bautista uncharacteristically wobbled when trying to serve out the match at 5-4 allowing the Serbian to level the score. And so we were headed for a second tiebreak.
The breaker was like a condensed story of the match, the momentum swinging one way then the other as both players stepped up their level. The crowd erupted in delight every time their home player won a point, but none more so than when Bautista collapsed to his knees after placing a backhand out of Kecmanovic’s reach after two hours and 15 minutes.
“The best experiences of my life playing tennis have been in this competition,” said Bautista. “Today I really enjoyed playing in front of the Spanish crowd in Valencia, next to my home town. I’m exhausted because it was a tough match and we have a lot of work [still] to do this week.”
Spain moved 1-0 ahead earlier in the tie after Albert Ramos-Vinolas survived a bruising encounter against Laslo Djere to win 2-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 in two hours and 54 minutes.
The Serbian had the much brighter start. A vocal crowd was willing Ramos on in the opening set, but he simply couldn’t make a dent on the scoreboard. Despite hitting 81% of his first serves, Ramos was only able to hold once in his first three service games. Djere, on the other hand, was near faultless.
The Serbian needed just 33 minutes to take the opening set after Ramos netted a routine backhand as the unforced error count kept mounting for the Spaniard.
Other than the appearance of the new face of Spanish tennis Carlos Alcaraz during the national anthems prior to the start of play, the near-capacity crowd in Valencia didn’t have much to cheer about, but the roof was raised when Ramos finally broke in the second game of the second set.
Even that wasn’t easy. The Spaniard needed three break points to move 2-0 up but the joy was short-lived. Djere broke back immediately to silence the home fans, who only moments before had started a chant of “España!”.
The rest of the second set was dominated by long games, with rallies regularly extending over 15 or 20 shots as both players refused to budge. At 15-40 down in the seventh game of the second set, Ramos raised his level, saving two break points to go ahead 4-3.
I was missing when I was trying to defend and then, with the crowd and the help of the captain, I started to play a little bit better
But neither player could make further inroads as the set extended beyond the hour mark and a tiebreak seemed inevitable.
Ramos rode his luck thanks to a net cord early in the breaker but played a beautiful forehand down the line winner to bring up two set points at 6-4. With the match clock nearing two hours, the Spaniard finally clinched the second set after Djere fired a forehand wide of the mark.
There was more disappointment to come for Djere. The Serbian bounced back from the tiebreak, racing into a 3-0 lead, but in the fifth game he appeared to tweak his left hamstring and that let Ramos back in.
Despite his movement being visibly hindered, Djere fought until the end, taking more risks to keep points short and pulling out huge first serves whenever he needed them, but when he netted a simple forehand at 30-40 down in the 11th game he handed Ramos a pivotal break, which he backed up by serving out the match to love.
“It was a great match,” Ramos said. “I think at the beginning Laslo was playing much better than me. I wasn’t able to control him. He was hitting the ball really hard. I was missing when I was trying to defend and then, with the crowd and the help of the captain, I started to play a little bit better. It’s a great atmosphere and I’m really happy to get the win.”
In the doubles, the Spanish pair of Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martinez came back from a set down to defeat Nikola Cacic and Dusan Lajovic 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2 to ensure Spain’s perfect start to the event.
Click here for Group B results and standings