Tebbutt: spectacular returns on the server

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The Spanish pair of Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martinez dominated Friday’s Davis Cup group stage doubles match against Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil – until they didn’t.

Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil launched into an incredible comeback at 5-3 in the final set. Auger-Aliassime first held serve at 5-4, and then the fun began – at least on the Canadian side. Granollers, who had easily been the game’s first star, won the game’s first serve point but followed it up with a double fault at 15 all. Then Pospisil blasted a return-of-service winner through the middle for 15-30, Auger-Aliassime landed a nice inside forehand / forehand return winner for 15-40 and Pospisil sealed the deal with a forehand straight return winner for the break.

It was easy to see how the Spanish pair could be shaken by their sudden and dramatic reversal of fortune playing Valencia in their home country.

At 5-all, Pospisil looked a bit vulnerable serving at 30-all. But as he did time and time again during the game, his serve was tight – in this case he hit back-to-back aces to make it 6-5.

From 15 all in the final match with Granollers serving, the Spaniards began to unravel under the constant pressure of Canadian service returns. They missed their volleys on the final three points to end the match – Canada’s final score 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

On the final point, Pospisil netted a forehand return of serve to Martinez at net, which the 25-year-old Spaniard long misplayed with a forehand volley to end the two-hour-and-five-minute game.

When asked later if on match point he had deliberately hit the net directly to challenge him in a moment of vulnerability, Pospisil replied: “No, I decided to go to the line and I didn’t know which direction he (Martinez) was going to move. They were doing I-training, so I just picked a spot.

Another example of Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil’s opportunism, they had 3/3 break point chances during the match – converting one each in the Spaniards’ last two service games in the third set, and one in the final game of the second set to finish it 6-4 on a big return from Auger-Aliassime that was preceded, at 30 all, by a similar untouchable return from Pospisil.

Granollers and Martinez played the sharpest, especially at net, of the aggressive doubles for most of the game, but were eventually held up by the odd returning synchronicity of Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil.

“Well, they are great players,” said a disappointed Granollers. “They play big. They serve big. I think we had a good match. A few chances in the second set, having breakpoints on the first game and also at 4-all. Also, the third set (we) were in the lead. Yeah, it’s crazy twice how fast it can change – you know, 10 minutes we were up 5-4, and after 10 minutes we lost the game. It’s tennis, and we’ll try again (against South Korea) on Sunday.

“I told these guys,” captain Frank Dancevic said of Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil, “listen to these guys (the Spaniards) are playing too well, you have to go. The only way to win this game is about trying your shots. They’ve played almost eight huge comebacks in a row. It’s an incredible end to the game, an incredible end to the day.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

A still giddy Auger-Aliassime said in his post-match interview on the pitch: “I don’t know how we managed that. It was a good effort to make them serve (at 5-4, 3rd Position). We’ve had great comebacks in the last three games. It’s not like they’ve lowered their level that much. We played too well. We were in a different area. We just kept looking for it, and kept believing it. It’s also because of the team (at the edge of the field).

Pospisil had some ups and downs during the match, but his level of service was very high throughout the match. “I served unbelievably,” he said, adding with a bit of humour: “I couldn’t make a comeback for a set and a half. As the game progressed, I came back better and better. The last three games, we just turned it on.

He added: “I’m exhausted and just glad we’re done.”

Pospisil started the day with a solid showing in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 singles loss to Roberto Bautista Agut. Then he talked about some physical ailments he suffered during the game. “I had a little something in my lower back and kind of a left spasm or something going on in my glute,” he said. “The difference (in the game) was physical – 100%. Nothing else, the tennis didn’t really cut through and unfortunately at the end of the match, until 2-all serve in the third set, a kind of collapse – my whole body. I was extremely tired. I had some cramps. It was very slow, very wet, very physical conditions. It’s frustrating because I felt like it was very high quality (tennis).

Listening to him, it seemed unlikely that he would be physically capable of reaching the heights he did in doubles, especially in the most critical moments at the very end.

Against Bautista Agut, Pospisil controlled the first set after breaking at 3-1. But Bautista Agut broke straight away at 2-0 in the second set and settled into his industrious basic consistency and returning serve for the rest of the match. He broke serve at 3-2 in the final set and eventually closed his fourth match point to end the two hour and 11 minute encounter.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Auger-Aliassime taking on current men’s tennis prodigy Carlos Alcaraz was the second successful act of the day. The 19-year-old Spaniard and 22-year-old Canadian were on their games – although statistically Auger-Aliassime was more dominant in a first set that featured no break points. He had dropped just four points in six service games before the tiebreaker. Then a mini break at 2-1, he had what looked like a forehand keeper for 3-1 but missed it in the net. It started a six-point streak for Alcaraz who wrapped up the set with an inside/inside forehand winner.

Auger-Aliassime was living dangerously when he faced a break point down 3-2 in the second set, but saved it with a daring forehand volley winner.

At 4 all, he beat Alcaraz, who showed some of the magic of his US Open title run but also looked vulnerable just five days after that life-changing US Open triumph and three days after returning to Spain. Auger-Aliassime served the second set, then broke Alcaraz to start the third – and also a second time to take the 4-1 lead.

The match had turned in his favor but he was still being tested by Alcaraz. He saved four break points in game four – including two with an ace and a winning smash – another in game six and a final one in the final game with another ace. A service winner on his second match point gave Auger-Aliassime the win – his first over a world No. 1 – 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 50 minutes.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

“I have to give him respect,” Auger-Aliassime said of Alcaraz. “It’s a big effort to win in New York and to come here, a different surface, across the Atlantic and to show up with this level today and this fighting spirit. I’m grateful to him, but today I think I was a bit better in the third set. I gave everything. That’s what it takes to beat a player like him.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

The stats sheet was fairly balanced except that Auger-Aliassime was 3/6 on break points while Alcaraz was 0/7. Although Alcaraz was a magician with the volley on the day, Auger-Aliassime did it better – winning 20 points at the net against 19 for his opponent.

“It’s a great victory for me, summarizes Auger-Aliassime. “Of course the support of the team and the captain really helps in times of difficulty and adversity. But I was not going to disappoint the team with my fighting spirit, I was going to give everything from the first to the last point. . And that’s what I did. “

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Alcaraz, who despite his disappointment spent a lot of time in the ensuing doubles match signing autographs, said the following after the match: “I didn’t come in very good physical condition. Very, very hard. The court is very slow. I only had two days to adapt my game to this terrain. Yeah, I mean, it was a really tough day. But, of course, I have to congratulate him (Auger-Aliassime) because he played an incredible match.

Canada will now face Serbia, a team consisting of Miomir Kecmanovic, ranked 33rd, Filip Krajinovic, 41st, Laslo Djere, 66th, and Dusan Lajovic, 92nd, in singles options.

Not all the possibilities are officially known, but it looks like if Canada can win a game against Serbia – and not lose 3-0 – it will be one of two nations to qualify for the Davis Cup final. in Malaga, Spain, from November 22 to 2.

Serbia were given a rest on Friday as Auger-Aliassime was on the pitch for a grand total of four hours and 55 minutes and Pospisil for four hours and 16 minutes – both finishing the doubles shortly before 1am. So there is still some work to do to get started. with the first singles match against the Serbs at 4 p.m. (10 a.m. ET) on Saturday.

OPEN US REAR VIEW

The US Open is about so much more than tennis, including food consumption. After a tour of the dealerships, the well-dressed guy here is ready for some serious drinking – including a beer that’s only $15 (US).

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