By Florian Heer
(January 31, 2014) FRANKFURT – Germany and Frankfurt’s Fraport Arena with a capacity of 5.000 seats hosted five-time-champion Spain for the first round Davis Cup tie in the World Group. Although Germany holds a 9-6 record over Spain, their last victory is dated back to the year 1994. The Iberians had to accept the fact that their two top-players in Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer do not play, whereas the home team has been able to call up their probably best formation.
In the first rubber Philipp Kohlschreiber took on Roberto Bautista-Agut. The Spaniard is making his Davis Cup debut this weekend and is considered as a player, who feels comfortable on hard courts. The German suffered an injury in his thigh right before the Australian Open but has become fit for the Davis Cup. In Frankfurt both players met for the very first time. The German was dictating the match from the baseline and was the better player throughout the encounter. Kohlschreiber gained the first break in the fifth game of the opening set to take the frame in the eighth in only 26 minutes.
The world No. 27 from Augsburg outplayed his opponent in most of the rallies and was the more solid competitor in every situation. Kohlschreiber served well, hit some great returns and the Spaniard wasn’t able to find his rhythm at all. Consequently the German served the match out without facing a single break point winning 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 43 minutes.
“I played a great match today against an opponent, who came with a lot of confidence from Australia,” Kohlschreiber was happy. “I’m really satisfied with my match. Roberto seemed to have problems to read my service, which made it difficult for him,” the German said. The Spaniard seemed to agree. “Philipp played brilliant,” Bautista had to admit afterwards. “I wasn’t able to play my best tennis today. I was also quite nervous at the beginning. I was waiting for some errors from my opponent but Philipp didn’t really make a lot. So it became difficult for me,” the Spaniard analysed the match. “The surface also seemed to suit Philipp’s fast game,” Bautista added.
In the second rubber Florian Mayer took on Spain’s No. 1 Feliciano López. Before the encounter, the Spaniard held a 3-2 head to head record over Mayer. The German took the first set in the tie-break and the Spanish team had to wait until the 11th game of the second set to gain their first break point of the tie – a wait lasting a total of three hours and 26 minutes. Mayer saved it and took the second frame in the tie-break as well.
The encounter was of highest quality with exciting rallies, great volley games and nice passing shots. López didn’t give up and eventually was the first player to get a break in the fourth game of the third set. The Spanish world No. 26 took the frame after two hours and twenty minutes in the seventh game. At crunch time in the 10th game of the fourth set, López saved two match points and took the momentum into the decider.
The 32-year-old from Toledo, however, couldn’t back his good performance in the beginning of the final set. One poor service game by López became the decisive one. Mayer, who fought for every point, gained the break and finally held his service until the end. The 30-year-old German closed the match out after three hours and fifty minutes winning 7-6, 7-6, 1-6, 5-7, 6-3 to give his country a 2-0 lead.
“I’m very pleased with my performance today,” Mayer was more than happy afterwards. “My match plan totally worked out to make points over his forehand and avoid his backhand slice. He really has a mean game,” the German laughed. “At the end of the fourth set I had to take some painkillers as I fell on my shoulder during one rally,” he said. “The shoulder is not broken but we have to see how it goes on for the rest of the weekend,” Mayer told about his injury.
On the other hand the Spaniards were understandably disappointed. “After the effort I made to come back being two sets down, I really thought that I could win the match but unfortunately I made some stupid mistakes in the fifth set,” López said. “Nonetheless Flo was a champion today and really deserved the victory,” the Spaniard stated.
Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit! Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.