Alexander Zverev picked an opportune moment to record his second competitive win in eight months, defeating Stan Wawrinka 6-4 6-1 to draw Germany level with Switzerland in their Davis Cup Qualifier in Trier.
Zverev, whose return to competitive action after ankle ligament surgery yielded three defeats from four matches in Australia at the turn of the month, looked much more like his old self in a commanding victory over the three-time Grand Slam champion.
The world No. 14 saw off Wawrinka in an hour and 36 minutes to cancel out Marc-Andrea Huesler’s battling 2-6 6-2 6-4 triumph over Oscar Otte earlier in the day.
“I think it’s important to go into tomorrow’s ties with a 1-1 [scoreline],” said Zverev. “Obviously I’m very happy with my game. I think that was the best match since my injury. It’s going in a positive way, and I hope I can continue progressing.”
A much-anticipated clash pitted the returning Zverev against Wawrinka – a three-time Grand Slam and 2014 Davis Cup champion – and the first set more than matched the billing.
An absorbing opening set was peppered with lengthy baseline exchanges. The German broke first for a 3-1 lead and, although Wawrinka hustled his way back into proceedings, the pressure eventually told in the 10th game as the Swiss handed over a second break of serve, and with it the opening set, when he closed a 17-shot rally by flinging a forehand into the tramlines.
Wawrinka had lost all four of his previous meetings with Zverev and was unable to break that duck as the German broke twice for a 3-1, then 5-1 lead in the second set, before cooly serving out the match.
“I think I played a lot more aggressive and maybe Stan’s spirit went down a little bit, but in the end I picked up my level and I’m very happy with that,” said Zverev.
The Germans will look to Andrea Mies and Tim Puetz on Saturday to give them an all-important 2-1 advantage ahead of the reverse singles later in the day.
Ugo Humbert overcame Marton Fucsovics 6-3 6-2 to earn a much-needed point for France on Friday in the Davis Cup Qualifiers, levelling the score at 1-1 against Hungary after Zsombor Piros stunned Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(4) 6-3 in the opening rubber.
The score being level in this tie might not come as a surprise, but the way in which both teams earned a point was a little unexpected. First, World No. 182 Piros pulled off a stunning upset to topple Bonzi, before Humbert came out fighting in his Davis Cup debut against Fucsovics to leave the tie finely balanced.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” reflected French captain Sebastien Grosjean. “Hungary are a Davis Cup team. They love it. They love to play for their country. They love the atmosphere. Like us. So now we’re going to focus on the doubles and we’ll see.”
Playing in his country’s colours certainly brought the best out of Piros, who had only previously played four times against Top 50 opponents. Each of those came in Davis Cup, and each time he had taken his game to a new level. The biggest win of his career came in the 2021 Davis Cup Finals, when he overcame the then world No. 30 Marin Cilic, and he was in similar form on Friday.
The match against Bonzi wasn’t without its momentum shifts and none more so than in the second set. The Hungarian battled back from 1-3, 0/40 on his own serve to reel off five games in a row much to the delight of the home fans.
After the match Piros said: “It’s one of my biggest victories and to have this in front of the home crowd makes it more precious. The second set was a miracle escape, I really don’t know how I did it.”
Both teams now look to what could be a pivotal doubles match on Saturday as they bid for a place in the 2023 Davis Cup Finals Group Stage, which will take place in September.
Fabian Marozsan and Mate Valkusz are scheduled to play against Nicolas Mahut and Arthur Rinderknech in the first match of the second day’s play before the reverse singles matches. Hungary is looking to score a first win against 10-time champion France since 1948.
This story features contributions from DavisCup.com