Davis Cup: Germany keeps coming back to take control of playoff

A pair of comebacks have given Germany a 2-0 lead in their Davis Cup world group playoff with Poland.

Davis Cup: Germany keeps coming back to take control of playoff
Florian Mayer hits a volley during his singles win on Friday. Photo: Davis Cup
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For most of the day, Poland was in the lead in each of the singles rubbers of their Davis Cup world group playoff with Germany. But they walked away empty handed as an inability to maintain leads and close out sets proved costly and the Germans took advantage, with both Jan-Lennard Struff and Florian Mayer battling back to win their respective singles rubbers over the young pole Kamil Majchrzak and Hubert Hurkacz to give Germany a commanding 2-0 lead after day one of their crucial tie.

Struff battles back for early lead

As expected, Struff was the man applying the pressure in the opening set against Majchrzak. The German attacked his young opponent at every opportunity, but found himself struggling to find the mark. Despite hitting more winners and tripling his opponent in break point opportunities, Struff only managed one break, which his Polish opponent matched converting one of his two break points. A tiebreak was needed to decide the set and Struff had opportunities at set point to seal the opener, but could not put Majchrzak away and the Pole stole the breaker 10-8 for an early lead. The German had 26 unforced errors in the opening set to Majchrzak’s seven.

Struff seemed undeterred, as he would break Majchrzak to open the second set and consolidated for a 2-0 lead. The German never looked back, breaking Majchrzak again to seal the set and level the match at a set apiece. But the momentum quickly swung back to Poland, as Majchrzak returned the favour by breaking early in the third set to grab the lead. He would hold the advantage until he served for the set at 5-4 when Struff rallied to reclaim the break at 5-5. But the revival was short lived, as Majchrzak would break back immediately in a lengthy 11th game and made no mistake in his second attempt to serve out the set, holding to take the set 7-5 and a two-sets-to-one lead.

Struff hits a backhand during his comeback win. Photo: Davis Cup
Struff hits a backhand during his comeback win. Photo: Davis Cup

The young Pole had a chance to take a stranglehold in the match when he held break points in the opening game of the fourth set, but could not convert. Struff made him pay for the missed opportunity, breaking in the following game. But unlike the second set, Majchrzak did not go away, reclaiming the break in the following game and swiftly holding to level at 2-2. But again, the initiative was reclaimed by the German, as Struff broke again and stretched the lead to 5-2 with a hold. The German would break again to send the match to a deciding set.

In the fifth, the two men exchanged breaks in the first two games, with Majchrzak failing to take advantage of his early lead. Struff made him pay, winning four straight games from a break down a 0-1 to take control of the decider. Another break gave Struff a chance to seal the match, which he did by serving out the final set 6-1, claiming the last six games of the match in a row.

Mayer rewarded for persistence

Looking to keep his team alive after a heartbreaking defeat, Hurkacz came out flying in the second rubber, breaking Mayer early in the opening set and racing to a 4-1 lead. It was one-way traffic for young Pole, as he broke Mayer again before serving out the opening set 6-1 in just under half an hour.

Mayer serves during his win on day one. Photo: Davis Cup
Mayer serves during his win on day one. Photo: Davis Cup

The German finally stopped the run at the start of the second set, but not before saving another break point in the first game. That seemed to give Mayer confidence, as he broke to lead 3-1. It did not last, however, as Hurkacz broke right back and put the set back on serve. The Pole continued to press and was rewarded with a late break at 4-4, but serving for the set, he blinked and gave the break back. Mayer’s inability to hold gave Hurkacz a second chance to serve out the set, but once again the young Pole couldn’t seal the deal and was broken to send the set to a tiebreak. The breaker was as tight and back-and-forth as the set itself. Again, Hurkacz could not close out the set, missing a set point before Mayer took the tiebreak 8-6 to level the match.

Hurkacz didn’t seem to be haunted by blowing the second set as he broke immediately to start the third. But just as he had for the previous hour, he gave the break right back. The set remainder on serve until the Pole blinked again and Mayer broke, holding on to claim the set and the lead for the first time all day. Momentum now in his favour, the German broke early in the fourth set. He would hold that lead until serving for the match when it was finally his time to blink as Hurkacz broke back to level at 5-5. But the young Pole did as he’d done all day, giving the break right back and this time Mayer made no mistake, holding to put Germany in command of the tie.

The doubles will be played tomorrow, with Poland needing a victory to stay alive in the tie.