Argentina survives mega Kazakhstan upset

ARGENTINA came back from the jaws of defeat to seal an incredible victory over a determined Kazakhstan and stamp its ticket into the Davis Cup Finals. The South American nation was playing at home on clay with three top 30 players compared to their opponents missing their top star Alexander Bublik, but it still went down to the wire with a deciding tiebreak in the fifth match determining the victory.

Argentina went into the tie at home as red-hot favourites with the three top 30 players tipped to storm past Kazakhstan missing not only Bublik, but former Russian Alexander Shevchenko who has now changed allegiance. However, Timofey Skatov – currently ranked 278th in the world – had other ideas, causing a couple of huge upsets across both days.

Toppling Tomas Etcheverry 6-4 7-5 on day one and then Francisco Cerundolo 7-6 6-4 on day two, Skatov kept his team in the tie, forcing a fifth and deciding set. Argentina was still well and truly in the box seat with Cerundolo toppling Dmitry Popko 7-5 6-2, before the doubles duo of Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni came from behind to storm to victory, 6-7 6-4 6-0 with a devastating finish.

It led to the final deciding match between world number 25 Sebastian Baez and 338th ranked Popko. On the surface, it appeared like a one-sided contest. However yet again, Kazakhstan was not willing to roll over, with Popko – who has won just four ATP Tour matches in his career at age 27 – took it right up to Baez.

After winning the first set 6-4, Baez gained the early advantage, but a crucial break mid-set in the second handed Popko the leveller at 6-3. The players then went toe-for-toe throughout the third set, leading to a tiebreaker. Despite Popko holding two match – and Davis Cup tie points – Baez held his nerve to win the last four points of the match to secure a 6-4 3-6 7-6 victory, 8-6 in the tiebreak.

Baez said he enjoyed getting the win under tense circumstances.

“This weekend was amazing and not just for me,” he said. “It was special to be with the guys in the team, my people and my family. I’m happy to take Argentina to the Davis Cup Finals in September.”

Former junior number one Skatov said he was proud of what his nation was able to do against the odds.

“I’m really happy with my performance today,” he said. “Playing against another guy who is top 30 in Argentina and with the team 2-1, there was some pressure. I wanted to give a chance to my team to keep playing.

“At the beginning, I was nervous and was 5-2 down, but I came back and in the second set, I also had 5-2 to me and got a bit nervous. In the end, I was focusing on my game and it gave me this result.”


[1] Canada defeated South Korea 3-1
Slovakia defeated [2] Serbia 4-0
Belgium defeated [3] Croatia 3-1
[4] Germany defeated Hungary 3-2
[5] Netherlands defeated Switzerland 3-2
[6] Czech Republic defeated Israel 4-0
[7] USA defeated Ukraine 4-0
[8] Finland defeated Portugal 3-1
[9] France defeated Chinese Taipei 4-0
Brazil defeated [11] Sweden 3-1
[12] Chile defeated Peru 3-2

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