Davis Cup: Epic doubles comeback keeps Poland alive in playoff

Down 0-2 in the tie and two-sets-to-love down in the third rubber, Poland seemed finished in their Davis Cup world group playoff again Germany. Instead, some much-needed heroism from veterans Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski kept the Poles alive on Saturday as they battled back for a five-set victory over Daniel Brands and Daniel Masur in the doubles to push the tie to Sunday. The Polish veterans got off to a slow start, but built momentum from the third set on, eventually dominating the final two sets on their way to an epic victory.

Germany battles back before taking tiebreak

Despite seemingly being the underdogs against an experienced Polish pair, it was the Germans who got the first look at taking control of the opening set. In the fourth game, the Germans had their first look to break, three times standing at break point. However, they were unable to convert and the miss would prove costly. In the very next game, the Poles managed to break Brands’ serve to take the lead at 3-2.

Brands and Masur high five during their doubles match. Photo: Davis Cup
Brands and Masur high five during their doubles match. Photo: Davis Cup

Just as their singles players had done on Friday, the Poles could not maintain the lead and were eventually broken back. The set required a tiebreak, where the Germans once again made the Poles pay for blowing the lead early in the set. While the Poles, despite a few deficits, hung with their opponents throughout the breaker, they never managed to take control as the hosts took the tiebreak 7-5 to claim the opening set. The Germans had lost the opening sets of both singles rubbers on Friday.

Lone break enough for Germans

The Germans continued to press early in the second set, holding a pair of break points in the first game, although they could not convert. In their next return game, they raced ahead 0-40 and this time took advantage to score the early break. More break points arrived for Germany in the seventh game, but they could not convert. This missed opportunity would not be very costly, as the one break was all the Germans would need. The Poles failed to convert their lone break point in the set and the Germans held on to take a commanding two-sets-to-love lead.

Poland stays alive​

Kubot (left) drills a volley during the Polish comeback. Photo: Davis Cup
Kubot (left) drills a volley during the Polish comeback. Photo: Davis Cup

Backs against the wall, the Poles tried to turn the tide early in the third set. The held four break points in their first return game of the set, but were unable to convert any of them. As the middle of the set rolled around, the break points were coming fast and furious. Both teams had chances to break in the middle but failed, before the Poles finally grabbed the lead with a break in the sixth game. The trend of blowing leads finally subsided, as this time they were able to hang on to force a fourth set.

Early break sends match to decider

The momentum carried over into the fourth set, as the Poles broke in the first game of the set to take immediate control following a hold for 2-0, but not before saving a break point. Maintaining the lead was not easy, as Kubot and Matkowski had to save another break point in their next service game. After a tense start to the set, both teams settled in and held serve routinely. The Poles had a chance to break for the set at 5-3, but could not convert the set point on the Germans serve. Unlike the previous day, they did not collapse after missing an opportunity, serving out the set the following game to force a fifth set.

Kubot/Matkowski complete comeback in style

Matkowski (right) hits a volley as Kubot watches. Photo: Davis Cup
Matkowski (right) hits a volley as Kubot watches. Photo: Davis Cup

Emboldened by drawing level, the Poles went on offence in the first game for the third set in a row. Riding a massive wave of momentum, they broke to love to lead for the first time since breaking early in the first set. Kubot and Matkowski were rolling and consolidated with a hold to love of their own. Just as it seemed that the Poles were on their way to victory, they were under siege on their own serve down 15-40. But the veterans were up to the task, saving both break points and another at 40-AD before holding for 3-1. The close call seemed to give the Poles another jolt. After holding for 4-2, they broke the Germans again to move to within a game of victory. They made no mistake, holding easily to push the tie to a third day.

Germany still holds a 2-1 advantage in the tie and will be looking to Florian Mayer to close out the tie against Kamil Majchrzak tomorrow, while the Poles will need wins from Majchrzak and Hubert Hurkacz, who will play Jan-Lennard Struff in the fifth rubber should Majchrzak pull an upset, if they hope to remain in the world group for 2017.