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2023 Davis Cup Qualifier: Ram, Krajicek clinch victory for U.S. vs. Uzbekistan

Arthur Kapetanakis | February 04, 2023

The United States Davis Cup team completed the first step in its mission to claim a record-extending 33rd title in the competition by closing out a 4-0 Qualifier sweep on Saturday in Uzbekistan.


After Friday singles wins from Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald staked Team USA a 2-0 lead, the doubles duo of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek clinched the tie for the road warriors with a 6-2, 6-4 victory on Day 2 in Tashkent. Dropping just two points on serve, the Americans defeated the Uzbek pair of Sanjar Fayziev and Sergey Fomin to book the U.S. a spot in the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals by Rakuten, to be played in September following the US Open.


In the fourth and final match of the weekend, Denis Kudla made a winning Davis Cup debut with a 6-4, 6-4 result against 17-year-old Amir Milushev.

"It's one step at a time," said interim captain David Nainkin. "The first step is to actually qualify, and that's what we've done. We don't really look further than that.


"Well done to everybody that was involved in this process and we look forward to the next steps."


With both Ram and Krajicek ranked inside the ATP's doubles Top 10, Nainkin could not have asked for a better duo to finish the job on the Olympic Tennis School's indoor hard court. The doubles pair delivered from the very first point, with world No. 3 Ram setting the tone with a big forehand to break in the match's third game.


It was Krajicek's turn to land the early hammer blow in set two. The world No. 9 showed supreme reactions to stab back an overhead on break point in the set's first game, then forced a volley miss two balls later for the team's third break of the contest.

The 32-year-old later put the finishing touches on the victory with a love service hold, neither of his last two serves coming back into the court. 


"The guys did a great job yesterday getting off to a good start and getting us two points for the U.S.," Krajicek said after the win.


"Then today I thought we played a great match. We brought good energy the whole time, took care of our serve and were able to get it done in the big moments. It was a fun atmosphere to play in. It's always an honor to represent your country. We don't get many chances to do that, so when we get the chance it's a great experience."


Ram, gracious in victory, shared this about hosts Uzbekistan: "I thought they competed pretty well," he said. "Obviously ranking-wise, let's say, they're the underdogs. They're not the favorites in this match. But I thought even in the singles, they tried their best and they really fought until the end. That's a pretty good quality to have. It helps you even win some matches that you're not supposed to win, maybe. So I thought that they did that really well."


While Ram and Krajicek are not regular doubles partners on the ATP Tour, the Americans have teamed up before, including when they represented the U.S. at the 2020 ATP Cup. After a strong week of practice, their communication and teamwork set them up for a dominant victory in which they did not face a break point.


"I was excited to see Raj and Austin play today," said Nainkin. "They've practiced well all week. They had five great days of preparation. As anticipated, they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set.


"After that it was like two freight trains. There was no stopping them... Austin served great. Eventually he had to serve for the match, and they got the job done."


Kudla completed the U.S. sweep with a strong performance of his own, wrapping up his win in under an hour. After three Davis Cup trips as a practice partner, the 30-year-old took full advantage of his first opportunity to compete for Team USA.


"My first Davis Cup tie on the team. I've been a practice partner three times, but being on the team is definitely a privilege, an honor, something I was never sure I was going to be a part of.


"To have the opportunity at 30 years old, and be able to win my match and be part of a great team, I'm super honored."

With the 4-0 victory, the U.S. has confirmed its place as one of 16 teams in September's Davis Cup Finals group stage. The first team to book their spot via qualifying, they join 2022 Davis Cup champions Canada, finalists Australia, and wild cards Italy and Spain in the next round.


The winningest nation in the competition's history, the U.S. claimed the last of its record 32 Davis Cup titles in 2007, when Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers led the team to glory with a win against Russia in the title round in Portland.


With 10 Americans now in the Top 50 of the ATP rankings,  and a trophy at the mixed-gender United Cup already in the bag for the U.S. this season, this could be the year the nation reclaims its Davis Cup throne.


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