11/30/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/30/2021 18:07
Germany will board a plane to Madrid after Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz once again showcased their doubles prowess to fire their nation to the Davis Cup by Rakuten semi-finals following a tension-filled showdown with Great Britain.
As they had done in both of their previous ties in Innsbruck, two-time Grand Slam doubles champion Krawietz and his partner Puetz rose to the occasion magnificently during a jaw-dropping clash, this time dispatching Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski 7-6(10), 7-6(5).
Germany were earlier teetering on the brink of elimination from the Finals after Great Britain surged into a commanding 1-0 lead following the 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of Peter Gojowczyk by a rampant Dan Evans.
However, big-hitting Jan-Lennard Struff hauled his nation level with a gritty 76(6), 36, 62 win against in-form world No. 12 Cameron Norrie, although this was only a prelude to what was to come.
In a high-octane and fabulously entertaining encounter, Krawietz and Puetz saved four set points during a fluctuating first set tiebreak before hauling themselves over the line by converting a fourth set point of their own.
Playing just their sixth match together, three of which have come at these Finals, the intrepid duo then won a second tiebreak to confirm victory, this time recovering from 5-0 down to win 7-5.
Victory ensured Germany ended their six-tie losing streak in Davis Cup quarter-finals and reached the semi-finals for the first time since 2007. They now advance to the Spanish capital where they will face the winners of the last-eight clash between the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) and Sweden on Saturday.
"I think you could see that after the match point a lot of pressure fell off," said Germany captain Michael Kohlmann, who was a clam presence throughout a nerve-racking encounter. "I am super happy. I mean, last time was 2007, and that year I played.
"This team is much better than I was at that time, so I think they deserved it. I am extremely happy and extremely proud."
While it was not at the forefront of his mind, Krawietz and Puetz even gained a modicum of revenge following their second-round defeat to Salisbury, who was teaming up with Andy Murray at the time, at the Olympic Games earlier this year.
"Honestly, I don't know how we pulled that back from 0-5," said Krawietz. "It's tough, of course, to start the second tiebreak with 0-5, but we just said, 'point by point' then maybe we have a chance in this tiebreaker,
"Then we served twice and we were 2-5. We said, 'okay, let's try to make one point out of two. Then we turned it around. It's a crazy game at times."
Great Britain, Davis Cup champions in 2015, were bidding to reach the fourth semi-final of Leon Smith's captaincy reign and equal, at the very least, their performance at the 2019 Finals in Madrid. The disappointment within the Great Britain ranks was palpable.
"Everyone is obviously gutted," said Smith. "We've had some good days but this is a tough day to swallow. I cannot fault any of the guys' efforts, all the team gave their best.
"Let's be honest, the sets [in the final match] could have gone either way and there could have been a different outcome but it wasn't to be. They gave their best efforts, sometimes that isn't enough, and Germany deserved to go through.
"These players enjoy playing for their country, they are among the best players in the world and they have extremely high standards. It is extremely raw right now, but it has been a great week. The guys really value Davis Cup weeks."
Norrie, who was making his first Davis Cup appearances at these Finals since 2018, echoed the sentiments of his captain, while his experience in Innsbruck has certainly whetted his appetite for more exposure to the competition.
"Overall, the week was excellent," he said. "It is a really enjoyable way to end the season and I'm so proud of everyone on the team as they left it all out there.
"I don't think anyone was too happy with their level at times throughout the week, but it's a long season. It's a tricky way to end, especially on a match like this.
"But we all definitely enjoyed it. We're all gutted, but I think for the future, it's going to be good to have experienced this and it is definitely going to make me and everyone else want it even more. I'm going to remember this."
The possibility of a Germany victory was made possible, in the first instance, by world No. 51 Struff and his defeat of Norrie, which ensured an already absorbing and enthralling tie went the distance.
Following an early break of serve, Struff surged into a 3-0 lead in the opening set before Norrie instigated a comeback, winning three successive games to level before a swift exchange of service breaks forced a tiebreak.
Left-hander Norrie engineered his way into a 6-4 tiebreak lead but failed to convert his two set points - something that would become a theme of the tie - allowing Struff to work his way back into contention and take the opening set.
Norrie, however, has been in blistering form this season and last month became the first Briton to top the podium at Indian Wells, so was always likely to strike back. He duly did midway through the second set, breaking the Struff serve to go 4-2 up from where he successfully negotiating the remainder of proceedings.
The third set followed a similar template only for the roles to be reversed. Struff flexed his muscles to break Norrie and power into a 4-2 lead, with the 31-year-old refusing to relinquish his grip, sending the tie to a deciding doubles.
Earlier, it had all looked far rosier for Great Britain, who were contesting their second encounter with Germany in as many seasons after drawing swords at the same stage of the competition at the 2019 Finals in Madrid.
Just as he did in the Spanish capital two years ago, Evans had the beating of his opponent. On that occasion, it was Struff who succumbed, on this it was Gojowczyk, a player ranked No. 86 in the world and 61 places below Evans.
It was something of a surprise to see Gojowczyk nominated by captain Michael Kohlmann ahead of left-hander Dominik Koepfer, who had featured in Germany's two previous tussles at the Finals against Serbia and Austria.
That said, Gojowczyk had beaten Evans in their two previous meetings at ATP Challengers. However, the most recent of those was in 2016 and the hand of history had little impact as the 31-year-old Briton set the tone with a booming return from his rival's opening serve.
It was a commanding start as Evans broke Gojowczyk in the very first game of the match and raced into a 4-0 lead before the Dachau-born 32-year-old retaliated, although it was too little, too late. Evans claimed the first set 6-2.
There was little respite in the second set for Gojowczyk, who chalked up 28 unforced errors in total in the match, as Evans inflicted a swift defeat on his opponent and cantered home 6-1 in just 55 minutes.
Gojowczyk, who was experiencing his first Davis Cup action since 2014. admitted he was "nervous and tight" in the build-up to the tie, and it proved a disappointing return to the Germany team. However, it is he and his team-mates who are Madrid bound.