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Davis Cup: Korda, Fritz put U.S. in command vs. Colombia
RENO, Nev. — Mardy Fish couldn’t have asked for a better start.
Seeking revenge against a team that only months ago knocked the U.S. out of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals, the U.S. captain watched his lineup take a commanding 2-0 lead against Colombia on Friday night behind singles wins from debutant Sebastian Korda and world No. 20 Taylor Fritz at the Reno Events Center.
It was a day of Davis Cup debuts across the globe: 19th-ranked Carlos Alcaraz made his much-anticipated first appearance for Spain; Sebastian Baez for Argentina; Alexis Galarneau for Canada. The 40th-ranked Korda sure made the most of his, though it didn’t come without some tense moments. In the end, he would outlast an inspired challenge from longtime friend and former junior foe Nicolas Mejia, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, the match stretching just beyond the two-hour mark.
“It was extremely special to have my debut and win,” said Korda, whose father, the 1996 Australian Open champion Petr, represented his native Czech Republic in Davis Cup on 18 occasions between 1988 and 1997. “It’s truly special, especially playing a friend like Nico. We kind of grew up in juniors, we traveled. We practiced so many times. I knew his game, he knew my game. Just a lot of fun today. The crowd was just epic.”
The 21-year-old was downright dominant in the 40-minute opening set, breaking for 2-1 and dropping just four points on his serve (20/24) in the stanza against the 265th-ranked Mejia. But his fiery opponent showed some resolve. After Korda opened the second set with another service break, the Colombian returned the favor and then some, reeling off six straight games to level the match and force a decider.
“I was serving great in the first set. Kind of lost my rhythm a little bit,” said Korda, who finished with 12 aces to five double faults. “He broke me back in the second, then he started playing incredible tennis. It’s never easy. Especially in altitude [4,505 feet], if you stop going after the ball, it gets tough, sails on you a little bit. Out of nowhere, you’re down a break and he’s fired up, playing really good tennis.”
With Mejia serving at 0-1, 30-40 in the third, Korda stepped in to swat a forehand winner to grab the break and regain some of his lost momentum, celebrating with a roar and a fist pump. Mejia, however, wasn’t done. He would break back, then consolidate to bring the set back on serve at 2-all.
Mejia served to stay in the match at 4-5, 15-40, before sending a forehand beyond the baseline to hand Korda the first victory of his young Davis Cup career.
Korda wasn’t at all surprised by the level brought by Mejia, who last November pushed American Frances Tiafoe to the limit and even held a match point before succumbing, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.
“He’s a great player. He’s super passionate,” said Korda. “When you mix those two things together, it’s dangerous when you play for your country.”
“Hopefully, this is the first of many battles,” said the 22-year-old Mejia, who fell to 0-4 in Davis Cup competition.
“I think it’s a credit to him. I’ve had crazy battles in Davis Cup, very tough opponents, very tough matches. My time for that win will come, but I just have to keep being competitive as I am.”
Fish wasn’t surprised by Mejia’s effort either: “That’s the passion that we saw from him specifically last November. That’s what we all sort of walked away from in Italy and felt like we could get better at,” he said.
“Is he over the top sometimes? Perhaps. But I told him at the net, I said, ‘You can play for me anytime, man.’ That guy tries his butt off.”
Fritz, No. 20 in the ATP Rankings, certainly had an easier go of it against 453rd-ranked Alejandro Gonzalez in the second singles rubber. The California native sprinted past the 33-year-old baseliner in just 53 minutes, 6-1, 6-0, sweeping the final 11 games of the match.
“I thought I would have chances with my serve here, with the circumstances, with the altitude, a little bit faster,” said Gonzalez, who surrendered five service breaks.
“But every time I made a good serve, the guy was also returning pretty well. I feel I had nowhere to play. He was solid from the back. The speed of the ball, it was heavy. I mean, the guy is playing good. He’s in a good position and he’s getting better. Today I noticed that. I felt it.”
Fish’s squad will have a chance to clinch the Davis Cup Qualifier in doubles on Saturday, though his tandem of Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram will surely be tested by the former No. 1-ranked pairing of Robert Farah and Juan-Sebastian Cabal. The reverse singles matches are scheduled to feature Korda vs. Gonzalez and Fritz vs. Mejia.
“We have an amazing team. We all play our part. We all have a job to do," said a confident Fritz. "Today it was me and Sebi’s job to come out here and win, and we did that. It’ll be Raj and Jack’s turn tomorrow.”
“The tie is still alive,” said Colombia’s captain, Alejandro Falla. “If we win the doubles tomorrow, we can win it all. We still have a chance to come back. It's not going to be easy, but we’re going to try our best.”
More from Reno:
Draw revealed: Fritz, Korda to lead U.S.
Foes to Friends: Captains Fish, Falla share storied history
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