Botic van de Zandschulp sealed Netherlands’ first Davis Cup by Rakuten win over Kazakhstan ahead of the doubles with a hard-earned 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Alexander Bublik.
With Tallon Griekspoor opening the tie with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win against Mikhail Kukushkin, and Bublik subbing in for Andrey Golubev alongside Aleksandr Nedovyesov to claw back a consolation victory in the doubles over Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, Glasgow's opening Group D tie ended 2-1 to the Dutch at the Emirates Arena.
The Netherlands now have a precious Group D win before taking on Great Britain and USA later this week.
"If you want to make a chance to be number one or two in the group, you have to win against Kazakhstan," said Van de Zandschulp, who was happy with a fine returning display against Bublik.
"It's always tricky to play him. He's serving well, he's serving big, playing a lot of variety in the shots - playing dropshots, underhand serve. You never know with him - especially when he gets angry, it's tough to play him."
If you want to make a chance to be number one or two in the group, you have to win against Kazakhstan
The first encounter between the nations’ No. 1s was as well-matched as the nine-spot gap in the rankings suggested, but it was world No.44 Bublik who dictated proceedings through the first set against his No.35-ranked opponent.
Playing with verve and variety behind his booming delivery, Bublik claimed his one break point opportunity for a 3-1 lead, saved Van de Zandschulp’s break point in reply in the next game, and rattled through the opening set dropping just six service points.
The second was a different story. Van de Zandschulp, for so long chasing shadows in the opener, hunkered down to turn the tables with some fine returning, breaking to move 3-0 up as his forehand became an increasingly prolific weapon.
Rattled, Bublik found himself coming off second-best in the cat-and-mouse rallies he had been dominating, and even back-to-back underarm serves couldn’t save him from a second break late in the set.
Van de Zandschulp lofted a delightful lob on his way to an opening break in the third, and a visibly riled Bublik took his anger out on a racket soon after. With a brief return to focus, he broke back in the next game, but the Dutchman was relentless, shaking off two missed match points at 5-3 to serve out the win to love in the next game.
"it's not like I thought after he broke his racket that the match was finished or something," Van de Zandschulp said. "In Davis Cup, he's always there and he's always trying to win. I think overall it was a high-quality match, and I'm happy I got the win in three."
I was basically doing the right things even though it didn't go my way
Earlier, Griekspoor fended off a spirited second-set display from Kukushkin to close out a three-set victory. His third successive win in the competition, and first at the Finals, denied the Kazakh his 30th win in the process.
The world No.48 looked in complete control, claiming eight of the first nine games to lead by a set and a break. But Kukushkin is nothing if not a fighter and survived six break points at 3-3 before breaking in reply, squaring the match with a fine knifed volley.
“I was basically doing the right things even though it didn't go my way,” Griekspoor said of the second set. “I knew my chances were going to come, but it's never easy after that second set. I’m happy with how I handled it mentally, and physically as well, in the end.”
It was an emphatic response. Having recalibrated, Griekspoor ran away with the third, winning 12 of the first 13 points to move 3-0 in front and all but secure the opening victory.