Davis Cup: Argentina beats unexpected Kazakhstan 3-2 to qualify for next stage

Despite the difference in rankings between players, the Albiceleste required a fifth game decider to beat the visiting team

Argentina’s Davis Cup team beat Kazakhstan 3-2 on Sunday to secure a spot in the 2024 tournament’s group stage. Sebastián Báez (25th ATP singles ranked) clinched the decider, beating Dmitry Popko (338th) by 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6). 

“It was a team win because we all did our part,” said Báez after the win. “I’m happy to have done my bit.”

With Rosario’s Jockey Club debuting as a venue, the difference in rankings between players meant Guillermo Coria’s team wasn’t expected to require five games to beat its Kazakhstani counterpart.

They split the opening round of singles games on Saturday: Argentina’s top-ranked Francisco Cerúndolo (22) beat Popko 7-5, 6-2, but then Tomás Etcheverry (29) fell 6-4 and 7-5 to Timofei Skatov (275).

That meant the doubles game, which opened Sunday’s action, could prove key. Again, the scene was set for an easy game, with established Argentine pair Máximo González and Andrés Molteni (both 13th ATP doubles ranked) going up against an improvised duo of Popko (795th doubles ranked) and Aleksandr Nedovyesov (48th). Yet, the Argentine duo dropped the first set on the tie-break and struggled to stay in the second, finally battling to win 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-0.

With the series primed for a quick wrap-up, Skatov, who had previously only beaten one top-100 player (Andreas Seppi, in 2021), made it two in a row by winning 7-6(1), 6-4 against Cerúndolo and sending the series to a deciding fifth game.

There, despite being rested for the game, Báez struggled to make his ranking difference count against an inspired Popko, who could have had two match points in the third set tie-break if the ball hadn’t burst after his serve at 5-4. 

“It was a hard-fought win, but you work for this. It’s incredible to win a game with all your friends by your side, and I’m thankful to the Rosario fans for their support,” the Argentine player said after sealing the score 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6).

Argentina joins the 11 other qualifier winners as well as 2023 winners Italy, runners-up Australia, 2024 hosts Spain and wild-card Great Britain for the Finals Group Stage, set to take place September 10 to 15 across four as yet unconfirmed cities. Winners and runners-up in the group stage make it to the knockout stage in Malaga, Spain, in November.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald