It did not take long for Argentina to fire out of the gates at the ATP Cup. After a comprehensive victory by Federico Delbonis in the No. 2 singles match, Diego Schwartzman clinched the tie for his country against Georgia on Saturday with a 6-1, 6-2 win against Nikoloz Basilashvili.
“I want to say Happy New Year for everyone who came and is watching,” Schwartzman said in his on-court interview. “It was a good start for me. I know him because we are the same age, but we didn’t play [before]. It’s the first time, so I’m happy to beat him in this way. Obviously I’m thinking about myself and I think my start and Federico’s start for our team, it was perfect.”
Basilashvili has proven he can compete with the best in the world, having reached an ATP Masters 1000 final at the BNP Paribas Open just three months ago. But he struggled to find his range from the baseline with his powerful groundstrokes and Schwartzman played consistently to triumph after 61 minutes.
“The good thing is I’m not hitting harder than my opponents regularly. That’s why I think I came to the court thinking just to have a good serve game,” Schwartzman said. “I think the return was working very good.”
It did not take Delbonis long to make an impact on his ATP Cup debut. In the No. 2 singles match, the Argentine lefty eased past Aleksandre Metreveli 6-1, 6-2 in 65 minutes on Saturday to give his country a 1-0 lead.
“I think it’s a really nice start of the year,” Delbonis said in his on-court interview. “I am very happy with the way that I played. I played from low to a bit higher in my level. I want to keeo improving and now it’s time to cheer Diego and the rest of the team.”
Photo Credit: Tennis Australia
Metreveli, who is No. 571 in the ATP Rankings, earned a victory against Uruguay at the ATP Cup two years ago (1-2). But the grandson of Alex Metreveli, who defeated Jimmy Connors en route to 1973 Wimbledon final, struggled to handle the consistency of his veteran opponent.
Delbonis used his heavy forehand to push the Georgian deep behind the baseline and force him into risky shots from tough positions on the court. The two-time ATP Tour titlist won 57 per cent of his return points and broke his opponent’s serve six times.
“Of course you have pressure because I didn’t know him. I didn’t know what I had to expect,” Delbonis said. “In the beginning I felt a bit nervous, the first match of the year and a bit tight after the preseason. But I think I can manage that pressure.”
After Metreveli missed a final forehand, Delbonis pumped his fist toward the Argentina Team Zone to celebrate.
In the final match of the tie, ATP Cup veterans Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni defeated Saba Purtseladze and Zura Tkemaladze 6-1, 6-2 to complete their country’s sweep. The doubles match finished just as the clock struck midnight in Argentina, marking the new year. The Argentines hoped they made their country proud.
“For us it’s very important. Obviously everyone wants to be [at] home these days with the family, friends,” Schwartzman said. “But every single player knows that the year starts very quickly, very early. [The] first day of the year we start playing, so it’s very important to start very well. It’s a team competition.”