Underdogs Finland beat 32-time winners USA on Saturday to book their place in the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time, while the Czech Republic, Australia and defending champion Canada all advanced.
Otto Virtanen saved two match points in the decisive tiebreak and defeated Mackenzie McDonald 7:6 (5), 1:6, 7:6 (7). Emil Ruusuvuori defeated Tommy Paul 7:6 (1), 6:4, sealing the win after his fourth match point – and giving debutants Finland a historic victory in the group stage of the Davis Cup final in Split, Croatia.
Finland, along with the Netherlands, managed to exit Group D and reach the last eight in the southern Spanish city of Malaga in November.
“You can hear it from the (fans). It means a lot for the whole country, for tennis in Finland. This is a huge deal,” Ruusuvuori said. “We’re going to Malaga!”
He added: “I skipped the US Open because I was sick and didn’t come here in really good shape. I had some physical problems today and it was a bit hard at the beginning. But you just have to keep fighting. I was able to find a way in two long sentences.”
Canada defeated Chile 2-1. Alexis Galarneau’s 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Alejandro Tabilo in the opening game was enough to secure Canada’s place in Malaga.
Nicolas Jarry leveled the tie by defeating Gabriel Diallo 6-4, 6-4, but a 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory by Galarneau and Vasek Pospisil over Marcelo Tomás Barrios Vera and Tabilo secured Canada’s victory first place in Group A.
Italy could progress from this group along with Canada if they win at least one game in Bologna on Sunday.
Last year’s runners-up Australia also secured their return to the quarter-finals with a 3-0 win over Switzerland in Manchester.
Depending on the outcome of the Great Britain v France game on Sunday, Australia would have suffered a defeat in one of the games.
The Czech Republic beat Serbia 3-0 to secure top spot in Group C, while Novak Djokovic lost in doubles to Nikola Cacic. Both countries were already through with two wins each in Valencia.
Laslo Djere, who was in good form in the group stage of the finals, overcame a back problem and saved four match points in his duel with Jiri Lehecka, but lost 7-6 (7), 7-5 as the Czechs won.
“I’m happy with the win, it’s that simple. “Laslo is a great guy and an even better player, so it was a big challenge for me to play against him on this pitch,” said Lehecka after representing his country secured first place in the group.
“He plays some incredible shots and never gives up. Even when I was up 4-1 in the second set, he was still there waiting for his moment. I must have added something to my level and it went well.”
The teams will next travel to Malaga for the knockout rounds, which will take place from November 21st to 26th.