Finland survives Davis Cup ‘Group of Death’ as Aussies advance
IN one of the most incredible stories, heavy underdog Finland secured its place in the 2023 Davis Cup Finals after surviving what was predicted to be a ‘Group of Death’ for the nation Coming up against Croatia, United States and Netherlands who are all considered heavyweights in the tournament, Finland seemed the obvious choice for the winless fourth spot. Except then the small European nation ripped up the script.
The group state of the Davis Cup Finals saw the four pools played across four different nations, with Group D taking place in Croatia. That did not seem to help the home team though, as the former world number ones failed to qualify for the next stage.
For Finland, there were no expectations, and after going down 2-1 to Netherlands, it looked as though it would go as expected. A promising sign out of that clash was world number 125 Otto Virtanen upsetting Dutch second singles player Botic Van de Zandschulp in straight sets. However top Fin – and only Top 100 singles player from the nation – Emil Ruusuvuori – was unable to repeat the effort against 24th ranked Tallon Griekspoor.
However Finland was not done with just yet. Going up against the host nation, Virtanen took down 168th ranked Dino Prizmic who was filling in for Borna Coric, while Ruusuvuori defeated Borna Gojo in straight sets to keep their dream of qualifying alive.
Needing to beat USA in the final group stage match, jaws dropped everywhere as the United States’ world number 13 Tommy Paul went down to the 57th ranked Ruusuvuori following on from Virtanen’s impressive three-set win – including two tiebreakers – over the 39th ranked Mackenzie McDonald.
The decision to rest world number 11 Frances Tiafoe from the tie backfired, and to add salt to the wound, the Finn doubles pairing of Harri Heliovaara (ranked 30th) and Patrik Niklas-Salminen (110th) somehow knocked off world number one Austin Krajicek and world number five Rajeev Ram in a third set super tiebreak to put icing on the cake.
With Netherlands losing to Croatia on the final day overnight, it meant Finland not only qualified, but topped the group as well. An incredible achievement for a nation ranked 21st compared to its group rivals who were fourth, ninth and 10th.
Croatia and USA missing out meant four of the top 12 nations will not compete at the Finals in November. The biggest casualty was world number two Spain who suffered losses to both Serbia, and more surprising, Czech Republic. The latter did not drop a match all tournament despite being less likely to advance.
Australia stamped its ticket to the Davis Cup Finals after grabbing second spot in Manchester. Great Britain topped Group B by remaining undefeated over the Aussies, France and Switzerland, while the green and gold beat the latter two to also qualify.
In Group A, there were less surprises with world number one Canada storming to an easy group-topping performance and an 8-1 record, while Italy qualified in second ahead of Chile and winless Sweden.
DAVIS CUP FINALS QUALIFIERS: (World Ranking #)
#7 Great Britain
#13 Czech Republic