DARWIN - Mikhail Kukushkin and Aleksandr Nedovyesov gave Kazakhstan a commanding 2-0 lead over hosts Australia after the opening singles of their Davis Cup World Group quarter-final in Darwin on Friday.
Kukushkin gave the Kazakhs the early momentum with a straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win over teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis in just over two hours. World No. 115 Nedovyesov then stunned the 41-ranked Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to put Kazakhstan on the brink of reaching the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time. It was Kyrgios's first loss in three matches on grass in the competition. Australia must win Saturday's doubles encounter to keep the tie alive in Sunday's reverse singles.
The disappointing outcome capped a forgettable day for Australian tennis after Bernard Tomic was arrested in the United States overnight. Tomic was taken into custody after failing to follow police orders to leave his hotel penthouse in Miami following a night of loud partying. Tomic should have been with the Davis Cup team in Darwin. But he was dumped from the squad following his outburst against Tennis Australia's hierarchy and former Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter at this month's Wimbledon.
With Tomic unavailable, Kokkinakis, who was preferred to big-serving Sam Groth, was handed responsibility for opening the tie against Kazakhstan's top-ranked player. "I wasn't able to find my game. And when I found it in the second set, I got broken straight back, which killed me," Kokkinakis said. "I didn't find my rhythm today." "I'm taking it pretty hard at the moment. I'm pretty disappointed."
SPAIN ON SONG IN VLADIVOSTOK: Tommy Robredo and Pablo Andujar gave long haul travellers Spain a 2-0 lead against Russia after the first day of the Davis Cup Group One Euro-African Zone second round tie in Vladivostok on Friday:
Five-time former Davis Cup titleholders Spain made the 13,000 kilometre trip from Madrid to the city near Russia's border with North Korea and China without stars David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal. But veteran Robredo got Spain off to a perfect start by beating Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours.
Andujar then despatched Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 to put his team, now coached by former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez after Gala Leon was sacked off, firmly in control. The opening day wins gave Spanish tennis something to smile about after Nadal's swift Wimbledon demise and conflict at the Spanish Tennis Federation. Fernando Fernandez-Ladreda was this month named as the body's new president in place of Jose Luis Escanuela, who quit over mis-management charges.
After trading breaks from the start the 29-year-old Spaniard moved up a gear to take four consecutive games. Khachanov, 19, who looked a bit nervous, producing a catalogue of unforced errors, reduced the arrears in the eighth game but Andujar broke again in the ninth to win the opening set. In the second Andujar confirmed his supremacy at the hard court of Vladivostok Fetisov arena as he broke twice again for a two-set lead, while Khachanov broke back once.
In the third Khachanov, who is 187th in the world, suddenly lost his nerve allowing Andujar to earn a commanding 4-0 advantage which he confidently kept through to win the set and the match in one hour 56 minutes. The doubles clash continues the tie's programme on Saturday ahead of Sunday's reverse singles.
INDIA IN DAVIS CUP FIGHTBACK AGAINST KIWIS: India suffered an early upset in their Davis Cup tie against New Zealand on Friday before Yuki Bhambri turned on the style to level the opening day 1-1. Top-ranked Indian Somdev Devvarman did not cope with the chilly conditions in Christchurch, blowing a two-set lead to lose the first rubber to Michael Venus 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. With a spot in the World Group play-offs on the line, Bhambri then swept aside Aucklander Jose Statham 6-2,6-1, 6-3 to keep India's hopes alive. New Zealand have lost their last four Davis Cup fixtures against India, most recently a 5-0 drubbing in Chandigarh in 2012. The Christchurch fixture seemed to be following the same script as Devvarman took an early lead against Venus, ranked exactly 400 places below him in singles at 548.
But Devvarman's error rate rose as Venus played his way into the match, spurred on by an enthusiastic crowd, eventually claiming victory after three hours 48 minutes.