11/26/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/26/2021 06:16
Davis Cup has long been a platform for emerging talent to project themselves on the world stage and Thursday night may well have seen Czech rookie Tomas Machac take a giant stride towards becoming a household name.
World No. 143 Machac, who recorded his best Grand Slam performance by reaching the second round at this year's Australian Open, was thrust into the limelight by Czech Republic captain Jaroslav Navratil.
The 21-year-old had been nominated on two previous occasions without contesting a match, so his showdown with Davis Cup veteran Richard Gasquet was his competition debut - and it was a performance to savour.
Machac dispatched Gasquet, a Davis Cup champion in 2017 and a player 14 years his senior, in straight sets as Czech Republic made a storming start to their Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2021 campaign.
"I am super happy that I won my first ever Davis Cup match," said Machac. "I am super happy that I could even play this match, to be honest. It was also great to play against Richard Gasquet, somebody who I watched so many times on television.
"I decided that I just wanted to enjoy all the matches I played at the Finals, I felt this was key. I was certain about this from the beginning, but for the opening part of the first set I was a little nervous.
"But I fought for every point in the match, and that was important. That is what my captain on the bench and my teammates were saying to me throughout, and I was really happy that I could get the win for Czech Republic."
Overpowering Gasquet was not Machac's final involvement in the tie, however. Despite losing the opening set, Adrian Mannarino hauled France level with victory over Jiri Vesely in the second singles match, meaning the tie was to be decided by doubles.
Despite not being initially nominated, Machac was given the nod to partner Jiri Lehecka, with serial title-winners Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who claimed the doubles title at the ATP Finals on Sunday, lying in wait.
It was a complete mismatch, but Machac and Lehecka were far from overawed, claiming the first set and looking incredibly composed considering their only prior experience of playing together was at last year's Prague Challenger.
For large parts of the encounter, it looked as though Machac and Lehecka were about to produce one of the biggest upsets in Davis Cup history, although ultimately Herbert and Mahut's experience told and France edged to victory.
It remains to be seen whether Machac can enhance his reputation further this week. His next opportunity is likely to come on Sunday when Czech Republic face Great Britain in their final Group C clash. For now, Machac is in his element.
"I love being here and I love being part of this team," he added. "We have a really good atmosphere in the team and I am super happy that I can be here and play in Czech colours.
"It has always been a dream of mine to play Davis Cup, while I also dream of playing more Grand Slams and Olympic Games.
"But Davis Cup, to compete in matches like these is why I play the sport. That is want and dream of."