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New-look U.S. Davis Cup team rolls to victory in 2023 Qualifier
Led by Tommy Paul and also featuring three rookies, the heavily-favored U.S. Davis Cup team completed a sweep of Uzbekistan in the qualifying round.
Published Feb 04, 2023
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Led by three rookies and an interim captain in David Nainkin, the U.S. Davis Cup team was the first nation to win its qualifying round tie this weekend. The visiting Americans rolled to a 4-0 win over Uzbekistan in Tashkent without losing a set.
The U.S. was the heavily-favored side in the two-day tie, even without its top-two players Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe: The Uzbeks' highest-ranked player, 21-year-old Sergey Fomin, came in at No. 366 on the ATP computer. That status afforded new faces to suit up for the red, white and blue for the first time, and they made their presence count.
Davis Cup rookie Mackenzie McDonald opened proceedings on Friday with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Fomin, before Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul staked the visitors to a 2-0 lead after the opening day. He came from 4-0 down in the second set, and saved two set points, to see off an inspired Khumoyun Sultanov, ranked No. 480, 6-1, 7-6(6).
The Americans' Top-10 doubles pair, Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram, clinched victory with a 52-minute triumph over Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev on Saturday, 6-2, 6-4. Denis Kudla ended the tie with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over 17-year-old Amir Milushev. Both Krajicek and Kudla joined McDonald in making their Davis Cup debuts.
In the hunt for a 33rd Davis Cup title all-time, the U.S. now moves on to September's group stage, which will be held the week after the US Open. But Nainkin says the team is not yet dreaming about hoisting the trophy, despite the post-Australian Open presence of 10 U.S. men in the Top 50 of the ATP rankings.
"It's one step at a time," Nainkin said after the tie, as per the USTA website. "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."
Despite the one-sided nature of the tie on the scoreboard, former doubles world No. 1 Ram was complimentary of the hosts' in-match competitiveness throughout the tie.
"I thought they competed pretty well," Ram 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."
With the 4-0 victory, the U.S. will be one of the 16 teams to feature in the group stage. It joins 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.