Can Dominic Thiem inspire Austria to victory as they take on Poland in their final round robin match at the ATP Cup on Wednesday?
Both nations face off in their final round-robin matches on Wednesday. Austria are still very much in the hunt for a berth in the last eight, having won one and lost one of their two previous matches, while Poland have been eliminated following defeats against Croatia and Argentina.
The Austrians began the tournament on a disappointing note, losing 3-0 to Croatia, but they got their campaign back on track with a 3-0 victory over Argentina in their second group match. Denis Novak recovered from a first set blow out to take down Guido Pella 0-6 6-4 6-4 before Dominic Thiem clinched the tie with a battling 6-3 7-6 victory over Diego Schwartzman.
The Austrians completed the sweep when Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer teamed up to beat Maximo Gonzales and Andres Molteni in the doubles rubber.
Austria can still win the group, but they will need to beat Poland 3-0, and hope that Argentina record an identical win over Croatia in the group’s other match. Even if they do not go through as group winners, they can still qualify as one of the best second placed teams.
Poland can no longer qualify for the quarter finals of the ATP Cup, and will be seeking a consolation victory when they face the Austrians in Sydney.
Another great single win today ??? @ATPCup #TeamPoland.
We didn’t get the team win at the end, but it is a great learning experience. Match againts Austria ahead of us. We will fight to the last ball ???#ATPCup #Grupalotos #emocjedopełna #YONEX pic.twitter.com/HbSkXblcrp
— Hubert Hurkacz (@HubertHurkacz) January 6, 2020
— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) January 7, 2020
AUSTRIA ??: 1. Dominic Thiem 2. Dennis Novak 3. Sebastian Ofner 4. Oliver Marach 5. Jurgen Melzer. Captain: Thomas Muster.
POLAND ??: 1. Hubert Hurkacz 2. Kamil Majchrzak 3. Kacper Zuk 4. Lukasz Kubot 5. Wojciech Marek. Captain: Marcin Matkowski.
Rubber 1: Dennis Novak (AUT) vs Kacper Zuk (POL), live from Sydney from 10:00am local time/ 11:00pm GMT
After his impressive comeback win against Guido Pella, Austrian No. 2, Dennis Novak will aim to give his country another early lead when he faces Kacper Zuk in the tie’s opening rubber.
Novak has played two very good matches in this tournament- he pushed Marin Cilic very hard in his opening match, falling to a narrow 6-7 6-4 6-4 defeat, before finishing on the right side of a three-set battle in his second match. The Austrian recovered from an opening set blow-out to record a 0-6 6-4 6-4 victory over Argentine, Guido Pella.
Novak is currently ranked 105th in the world, just one spot off his career-best ranking. The 26-year-old peaked at No. 104 last June, following his run to the Ilkley Challenger. He won Challenger titles in Taipei and Bratislava, and made a semi-final in Heilbronn. While he played most of his tennis in 2019 on the Challenger Tour, he did have a handful of tour-level appearances, winning a match each in Bastad and Kitzbuhel. Overall, he was 2-4 on tour level matches.
Can he get Austria off to a winning start when he faces Poland’s Zuk on Wednesday?
With their No. 2 player, Kamil Majchrzak missing again, Poland will once again turn to 20-year-old Kacper Zuk for the second straight match.
By no means have they been disappointing in this tournament, but they fell just short in each of their previous two matches, losing deciding doubles rubbers to Croatia and Argentina.
Playing his first tour-level match, Zuk impressed against Croatia’s Marin Cilic, pushing the former US Open champion very hard before falling 7-6 6-4. Zuk was outside the top-1000 at the start of 2019, but he more than halved that ranking last season, winning ITF titles in Sharm El Sheikh, Troisdorf, and Stockholm, and finishing at 450th in the rankings. Can he claim his maiden tour level victory on Wednesday when he faces Austria’s Novak?
Novak has been in fine form in this tournament, and with the extra incentive of a potential spot in the quarter finals, the Austrian should be too strong for the young Pole.
Rubber 2: Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs Hubert Hurkacz (POL), live from Sydney from 11:30am local time/ 1:30am GMT
World No. 4, Dominic Thiem faces a difficult task as he takes on Hubert Hurkacz in the second rubber of Austria’s ATP Cup tie with Poland.
Thiem is 1-1singles matches in the 2020 ATP Cup, losing his opener in three sets to Borna Coric before taking down Diego Schwartzman in his second group match.
The Austrian broke twice, and faced no break points in a dominant first set, but he faced stiffer resistance at the start of the second set, dropping his first two service games of the set, but breaking back immediately on each occasion. The rest of the set went with serve, but Thiem pulled away late in the tie break, winning the final four points to take the match, and register his first win of the season.
He’s still got a very long way to go if he’s to match his numbers from last year. Thiem was an impressive 47-17 in 2019, winning five titles along the way. He was champion at Indian Wells, Beijing and Vienna, while he added clay-court titles in Barcelona and Kitzbuhel. He also made marquee finals at Roland Garros and the Nitto ATP Finals, where he scored brilliant wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the title match.
Thiem made significant improvements on hard courts in 2019, and he will have to be very much on top of his game when he faces Hubert Hurkacz on Wednesday.
Poland might have lost their two matches so far, but Hurkacz has been a shining light for the Poles, winning his two matches against Diego Schwartzman and Borna Coric. He recovered from a set down to score a 4-6 6-2 6-3 against Schwartzman before blasting past Coric 6-2 6-2.
The world No. 37 powered down nine aces and dropped just eight points on serve in an absolutely dominant performance.
Having broken into the top 100 at the end of 2018, Hurkacz continued his rise through 2019, peaking at No. 33 in the world. He won his maiden career title at Winston-Salem, while he also made his first Masters 1000 quarter final at Indian Wells. The 22-year-old was also a quarter finalist in Dubai and Eastbourne, while he had his best Grand Slam performance at Wimbledon, where he made the third round.
The Pole also has a winning record against Dominic Thiem, scoring a 6-4 6-4 victory over the Austrian in Miami last year.
He has been in fine form at the ATP Cup, and poses a genuine threat to Austria’s hopes on Wednesday. Thiem will have to be at his best to take down the rising Pole.
Rubber 3: Oliver Marach/ Jurgen Melzer (AUT) vs Hubert Hurkacz/ Lukas Kubot (POL), to follow after suitable rest
Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer got the win for Austria in the last match, and will most likely be retained, while Poland may give Hurkacz and Lukas Kubot one more opportunity to get the win after the pair fell short in their two previous matches.