PARIS, France (AFP) — Finland wrote a new page in their tennis history on Saturday, beating the United States 2-1 in Split to reach the last eight of the Davis Cup for the first time.
Australia and defending champions Canada also qualified while Novak Djokovic played doubles in a losing cause for Serbia against Czech Republic in a dead rubber with both teams already through to the final stages to be played in Malaga in November.
Otto Virtanen set the Finns rolling in the winner-take-all match against the Americans with a 7-6 (7/5), 1-6, 7-6 (9/7) win over Mackenzie McDonald.
Emil Ruusuvuori then followed up with a 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 victory against world number 13 Tommy Paul on his fourth match point, sending Finland through with Netherlands from Group D.
“You can hear it from the (fans). It means a lot for the whole country, for tennis in Finland. It’s a huge thing,” 24-year-old Ruusuvuori said post-match. “We’re going to Malaga!”
Alexis Galarneau saw off Alejandro Tabilo 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) to give Canada an early lead over Chile but the South Americans leveled the tie when Nicolas Jarry strolled to a 6-4, 6-4 win over Gabriel Diallo.
The Canadians won the tie when Galarneau teamed up with Vasek Pospisil to beat Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) in the doubles.
Chile’s hopes of progressing now depend on Italy, who are currently second in the group, losing 3-0 to Sweden on Sunday.
Djokovic sat out the singles in Serbia’s dead rubber against the Czechs but did not disappoint the crowd in Valencia as he partnered Nikola Cacic in the doubles, losing 7-5, 6-7 (9/7), 10-3 to Tomas Machac and Adam Pavlasek.
Australia booked their place with an emphatic 3-0 win over Switzerland in Glasgow.
Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex de Minaur won their singles matches in straight sets to win the tie but Australia did not stamp their passage to Malaga until doubles duo Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell completed the sweep and guaranteed Australia a top-two finish in Group B.
Britain or France, who meet on Sunday, will join the Australians in Spain in November.
Three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka did not take to the court but his comments about the poor crowds in Glasgow earlier in the week has stirred discussion over the future of the current Davis Cup format.
Wawrinka posted contrasting videos on his social media of Switzerland’s first match against France which showed the stands almost empty and their second against hosts Britain on Friday where the atmosphere was pumping.
“We see the difference between today and three days ago — it’s not normal,” Wawrinka said.
Since 2019, the historic competition has been converted to a World Cup-style event with group stages and matches on neutral soil, with many of the matches played out in front of low crowd numbers.
Rising criticism has called for a return to the pre-2019 system of home and away ties in front of partisan crowds supporting their country.
Mark Woodforde, who played for Australia in three Davis Cup finals, is chair of the Davis Cup committee and rejects the criticism.
“We’re fully aware that some players will say, ‘Why don’t we go back to that home-and-away format?,’” he said on Saturday.
“That format was not working. That’s why the change came about. The old format was killing Davis Cup. We had nations telling the ITF they were unhappy, it needed to change.”
Woodforde also scotched any ideas that the format would change any time soon.
“In 2024 the competition will remain as is,” he said. “We feel this is the format where we can see mileage with it.